The holidays are a difficult time of year for our family. Nine years ago we lost our son, Brandon, when he was hit by a truck while riding his bike. No amount of holiday cheer can ever transport us to a time when we were a complete family. Unfortunately, many of you can relate because you have lost your precious child too.
It’s been a long time since Brandon’s death; aren’t we “over it?” No. You never “get over” the loss of your child. You simply learn to go on without them — enduring the pain, treasuring the memories and being thankful that you were blessed to have such a special child even for a short time.
Admittedly, the first years were excruciating and we were so glad when Dec. 26 arrived. This was not typical for our family as Christmas always was our favorite holiday. What made the holiday season additionally hard was how people reacted to our grief. Instead of acknowledging it, they tried to cheer us up and make it seem like nothing was wrong. As a grieving parent you are acutely aware of how everyone else’s holiday hasn’t changed. It is the “elephant” in front of the Christmas tree.
We had two young daughters, and we needed to have some semblance of normalcy for their sake. We bought and wrapped presents and even decorated cookies. However, there were certain holiday activities that didn’t seem the same without Brandon, and we discovered it was OK to let some traditions go away. For instance, we always made a 12-month family calendar with pictures of our children. The tradition started when Brandon was 2 and continued for 11 years. Even though the calendar was a very special gift for our family members, it didn’t feel right not having Brandon in the pictures. Our family was disappointed about not getting their yearly calendar but that was OK. It was what we needed to do that was most important. Instead, we decided to honor Brandon’s memory each Christmas with a new angel ornament.
Finding a new normal
Brandon’s Christmas stocking still hangs with the other family stockings on the fireplace mantel. His picture ornaments are still part of the tree and the reindeer hanging he made in second grade still graces our living room wall. All grieving parents need to find their new “normal,” especially when it comes to major holidays. Family and friends need to realize that parents who lose a child are not and will never be the same people they were before their child’s death.
Please understand that grief is not something to be avoided. Grief should be shared. No matter how painful it may be, grieving parents WANT to remember and honor their child. Ask them how you can help and then be prepared to listen and help. It will get better. It just takes time.
- Rosann Fochs
Rosann Fochs works as the community relations and volunteer coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Neenah, Wis. She and her husband, Joe, are parents to Brandon, Brianna and Aubrey. Children’s Hospital in Neenah has a 20-bed pediatric unit, 22-bed neonatal intensive care unit and an outpatient clinic offering specialties from allergy to urology. Learn more at chw.org/foxvalley.