We are on the front end of the holiday trifecta. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years loom on the horizon. For most, it is a festive season. But for those living in loss it is often a difficult season of sorrow and endurance.

When Lydia and my first child, Bryan, died at 8 months old our oldest son, Matt, was 3 years of age.  We lived through the holidays as best we could. We honored Bryan by blending his presence into our holiday spirit while giving our child and each other the space to feel our loss. There were books for grieving parents that were helpful, but no matter how well written or insightful books for grieving the loss of a child can be, there was still the need to balance the joy and sorrow for Matt, and for us.

When Lydia died four years later, the holidays intensified Matt’s loss and my desire to hold the space of joy and sorrow for him. We lived with what we had in the shadow of the ones we could no longer hold. We missed Bryan. We missed Lydia.

Matt died three years later on November 10, 1992. I did not participate in Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. The holidays that the world around me celebrated went on without me.

Benjamin Collage

To this day, holidays magnify what I will always carry – the loss of the ones I will always love. But in that magnification is not just the loss of what I had, but also the deep gratitude of the lives I had to privilege to be given.

My relationship with the ones I will always love and lost did not end at their deaths. Our relationship continues to evolve in the expansion of our love. Life is different. Love is different. But time did not freeze. The river still flows and everywhere I go, they go.

I no longer brace myself for the holiday season. My leaning into everyday with whatever I feel has given me a way to lean into the holidays with the same openness. The best way to prepare for the next moment is to live fully in this one. And when I am open to love, love finds me… and I find love whatever day it may be.

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