This morning, Saturday, October 8, 2016 and I found myself brought to tears by Ed Sheeran’s song, “Photograph.” I was completely blind-sided by grief, tears, and the realization that photographs are all that I have and that my son will be missing from the Thanksgiving festivities this weekend.
It’s been 9 years. You’d think that I’d be prepared or that it wouldn’t sneak up on me like that, but it does. And while music is a common trigger for me, I’m sure that you have your own. Then again, Jacob was on my mind as I knew I had this article to write about getting through the holidays.
I’ve managed the Back to School craziness pretty well – by being focused my second son starting Kindergarten and being busy with work. I was so busy I didn’t really think about it too much.
But a friend whose son is the same age as Jacob would have been, pointed out that I would have had one child who is graduating and another entering Kindergarten. I am amazed at how time has flown by and yet stood still for me. For me, Jacob would still be entering grade 3 because he never did. I know for other moms, the time and their child’s age progresses.
Looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, I am happy to spend it with my in-laws. They are lovely people and I truly enjoy their company. They adore my son, their nephew, and the food and company is always fantastic. But it’s also hard. Not one person there knew Jacob. There’s no one to whisper, “I miss Jacob” to in the middle of the festivities, at least not a soul who knew him. My husband is wonderful and he holds space for me whenever I need it, but he’s not Jacob’s dad.
Jacob’s dad and I finalized our divorce one month to the day that Jacob died. Our eight year old son, Jacob passed away in his sleep on June 25, 2007 from an un-diagnosed, asymptomatic heart defect. It was so sudden and leveling. He was our only child. Fast forward a few years, and I’m now happily remarried with a wonderful husband and five year old son. They bring me such joy, but the grief it never really leaves. It’s there lurking in the background.
Halloween is coming up in a few weeks and I both look forward to it and dread it. My husband, my second son, and I all enjoy decorating and everything that goes with Halloween and we go all out. But it hurts at the same time.
For Jacob and I, Halloween was “our” holiday as we didn’t really celebrate other traditional holidays throughout the year. Each year, I pull out luminaries and decorations we made together – a bittersweet thing. A flood of happy memories mixed with an aching mother’s heart.
The first few Halloweens without Jacob, I didn’t even hand out candy. We just turned out the lights and pretended we weren’t home. It was all too much. After 9 years, I can enjoy the evening and all the children dressed up, having fun. I remember Jacob and smile through the pain because I love him so.
From now until well into the New Year, I will continue to experience these bittersweet moments: Enjoying the present while haunted with the past and the pain of missing a much loved boy. There’s such a long list of festivities during this time of year.
But there are some things that I know can do to make the times that grief’s shadow passes over my life to make it more bearable and still acknowledge Jacob and his very special place in my heart. These are just a few ideas:
• Be kind to myself. Take time to rest, eat well, and get outside if I can.
• Do what I can, when I can, but if I can’t, then I don’t.
• Take time to be with my grief and spend time with my memories. Journaling, listening to music that sparks memories, talk to friends and family about Jacob, or even visit the cemetery; these are all things I do.
• While at large gatherings, I have a plan for managing my grief. I know I can find a quiet spot if I need one and if I find I just need to leave because I can’t keep up the small talk, I just go. Have a plan A, B, C or however many you need.
• Get out of Dodge – I leave town it if it’s just too much.
• There’s no “right” way to do grief. It’s as personal as my relationship with my child. I do what feels right for me.
If you’re looking for more ideas, this What’s Your Grief article has plenty of ideas: 64 Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holidays.
If you find you need help in your grief, please visit our Community Resources page to find help that is available in Calgary, AB.
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