This is a hard time of year for those of us who live with the death of our children. We often fumble for ways to be present in this Holiday Season. We know a seat will be empty at Christmas dinner and that there is a spot under the tree where some other presents would be. At the same time wedesire to feel joy and to engage in the magic of the season with our other children and with our family. The dance between joy and pain, fullness and emptiness..it continues. And is magnified this time of year.
Today I'm sharing 8 things you can do THIS WEEK to honor your child and to take care of yourself.
1. Do something for a friend who honors your child.
Is there someone in your life who consistently remembers your child? Who honors them? Who says their name regularly? Reach out to that person and let them know that you appreciate their love. This week I picked up a little gift for a girl who was one of Ethan's classmates. She always remembers him, she organized a fundraiser for the Ethan Lindberg Foundation at school, and she always lets me know that Ethan means a lot to her. Her love for Ethan means the world to me.
Don't have someone who loves you in this way. Is there a blogger or a social media group you are part of? Share with them how much they mean to you. Everyone needs feedback and love, especially people who give their words and love to the hurting world.
2. Display your child's name in your house.
Hang your child's stocking up, hang their name on the Christmas Tree. I keep this bunting in my kitchen. It's been hanging there since Ethan's first birthday in Heaven. I love seeing his name present in our house every day.
3. Take a run, a walk, anything to get your heart pumping.
Sometimes it's the last thing we want to do, but exercise has a way of clearing our minds, calming our emotions. It's also a great outlet for anger. There are plenty of times that working out was the LAST THING I wanted to do, but I assure you, it's a good medicine for a sad heart.
4. Do something creative.
Creativity is a great way to balance our emotions. It gives us tactical uses for our energy. I have found relief in creative outlets such as painting furniture, rearranging my house, browsing Pinterest (for all the home projects I want to do:-), and making my house look different each Christmas using the decorations I have.
Each year I do my mantle differently. In the last 4 years I always add something that is symbolic of Ethan and of my eternal relationship with him. Here's a glimpse of my mantle this year.
5. Go there...allow yourself to entertain the idea of what your child would be asking for this Christmas.
I vividly remember my first Christmas after Ethan died. It was viscerally painful. Walking the aisles of the stores passing by things I know I'd be buying for him was unbearable. Then one night Erik and I let ourselves talk about what he'd be asking for. We knew we'd be buying some type of Apple product. We actually smiled and laughed thinking of all the gadgets and devices Ethan would have talked us into.
Let yourself go there. Let yourself imagine what she would ask for, what he would be into this Christmas. Imagine, dream, envision. It's okay to go there...even if the tears come.
6. Donate to a cause that pulls at your heart.
There is so much pain in this world. There are many people who need love and practical things like food, clothing and shelter. There are sick children in hospitals, there is never a shortage of pain or a need for love that fills in the empty spaces.
My heart has been so broken over the situation in Aleppo. There are not easy answers, but while governments are dealing with the politics, there are people hungry and dying. As I made cookies this past weekend, I reflected that we always had the medical resources needed to care for Ethan. I'm loving the work that Preemptive Love Coalition is doing in Syria as we speak.
Find a cause that speaks to you and give of yourself. Trust me, it will feel good.
7. Breathe. Meditate. Stretch.
Our emotions have a strong physical effect on us. We can feel tight. We often feel physical pain and this adds to our emotional pain. Remember our minds and bodies are intrinsically connected. I know that if I take 20 minutes to stretch on particularly hard days, I feel so much better. Find a yoga class on You Tube, find a short yoga sequence on Pinterest, just get on the floor and stretch. Take 10 deep breaths. In and out. In and out. Feel the tension melt.
I love Headspace. You can download the app for free and learn the basics of meditation. Try it, you will feel refreshed and centered. Sometimes I even use it as I'm laying in bed. It's a great tool to relax the mind and to help you unwind and sleep.
8. Look Up.
There is no way this season is easy. But it doesn't have to be unbearable. Today in Illinois it's -12 degrees, but the sun is shining. Here's a view from outside my front door this morning.
As long as you are breathing, your work here is not finished. So look up, see the sun shining, feel the breath in your lungs, look at the people around you who love you. You are here. Your life has purpose. You CAN do this. Each day, one step at a time.
Make 2017 a year that you rediscover yourself and your purpose. Maybe it's shifted, maybe you need to reacquaint yourself with who you are now. Make that rediscovery a priority. Your child wants you to LIVE. He wants you to feel joy. She wants you to be your best self.
Keep going..and don't forget, your child is right beside you. Loving you. Always.