Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 12/24/2015

Christmas without our children

There is an empty seat. An agonizing hole in our heart, in our world. Others may have become invisible already (or by now) to the place we hold for our children during the holidays (and every day) but we feel it. Something is wrong. And yet others laugh and find pleasure and meaning in purchasing gifts. How can that be? How can everyone else’s world go on without our children in it? How can we be expected to go on? Yet we do.

I am many years “out” from the trauma of Daniel’s death, but nowhere near through the trauma of losing him, if you know what I mean. However, I have made a life with him carried in my heart instead of in my arms or walking by my side, and I think I have adapted to the situation, if not to the loss. Then, at church, we’re invited to buy a poinsettia in honor of our dead. That simple thing pulls off the scab and causes my heart to bleed again. I ask my husband to pick it out and to make the arrangement because I know I would cry at the florist’s shop or get caught up in picking a blemish-free plant, strong and healthy, because if it wilted, it would crush my spirit even more. A plant. My son’s “presence” at church on Christmas has been reduced to a plant on a shelf.

But we have created new traditions, and that has helped. I’m playing hand bells for a midnight Christmas Eve service  — something I never did when Daniel was alive. We go out to my cousin’s house for dinner (I used to make every Christmas dinner). I don’t want to do the same things I did, so I go caroling with an adult choir. I helped our hometown launch a parade of lights, and worked to bring Santa back to town. My children are grown, we’re finally beyond the stockings and the things I couldn’t do any longer for Daniel, and we made it through and past those first Christmas holidays. Now I try to help other children find joy in Christmas.

And so will you, and that’s my gift to you this year — the assurance that you can and will make it through. It will take a toll and you need to be patient and forgiving if you don’t feel like buying things or cooking or caroling. You need to be able to set boundaries. But open your heart (it will, in fact, help with your healing) and do what you can. Don’t shy away from what you can do. It helps to be as charitable as possible, as focused on others as you can manage. Reach just a bit beyond yourself, and then be happy with yourself.

I am with you in spirit as we go into our respective holiday celebrations, just as my son is with me. I do pray for your peace and that you can find some measure of joy in the season. It is possible, please know and have faith that it is possible, and let your child’s love shine through you. Kindle that flame. It will shine again, with time.





  1. Thank you for being the person that you were & for the person that you’ve regretfully become Jody!!! W share more in common then the obvious for sure & that makes us feel better.

    Kind Regards Always Joe & Tami

  2. Amen. X

  3. Thats a beautiful tribute . I’m not moving forward and it’s 3 yrs since my loss of my son, which to me always mean yesterday… This letter says everything I feel and I know I’m not alone. Thank you for you support and love. It really means alot.

    • Annette – your words “it’s 3 yrs since my loss of my son, which to me always mean yesterday… ” say it all. I feel exactly that way to me about my daughter Julia. It will be 3 years in March.

      • Dru, I’m sorry for your loss.. How do we move forward when our loss is so overwhelming ? I’ve been in grief counseling and it helps in some ways but not in all ways, if that makes any sense. . Everything is so very raw…

  4. The empty chair mention really got to me because my daughter was always at my side and for Christmas and it took all the strength I had to be happy and not ruin Christmas for my family. My daughter in law asked me if I talk so much about Deanna because I’m afraid I will forget her. I told her that’s not a possibility I’m afraid everyone else will forget her she was here she did exhist and she is just not a name on a rock in the ground.

    It hurts so much and I cry daily for my loss of her but I have to realize no matter how much I cry she isn’t comming back she is gone. She is “deceased” which was a word that really hit me hard. I have to live in a world now that I survive for my living children to show them that I love them as much as I loved her but it is hard and some days I have complete meltdowns. But I have to remind myself she is gone and not comming back and she wouldn’t want me to be in so much pain so I live each day until I die with the pain of loosing her but also with the knowledge that I have to be thankful for what I have and not what I don’t have. I have a loving son, daughter I law and granddaughter that I live with and they treasure me as much as I treasure them. I’m still blessed.

  5. This is beautiful. Glad to hear you are fine ding peace and healing.

  6. It’s been so hard lately with the one year anniversary of her death. Really that’s how I measure her life by her death. I’m driving home from work and think what a beautiful day Deanna would have liked this but then I realize she will never see a beautiful day again and the tears start falling. I don’t believe I will ever get over or move on from her death I will just APPEAR to survive it. I feel the only thing I have to look forward to is my death so I can join her. I wouldn’t kill myself becaus of the pain it would causes my surviving children but I have nothing to look forward to. I will never see her smile hear her talk make fun of her or she makes fun of me I lost my best friend and only daughter and it’s so hard to want to keep living when I miss her so much. All I have now is waiting till I naturally join my daughter so we can laugh again and I can tell her how sorry I am that I wasn’t able to realize how sad she was and took her own life. Day after day I remember the night she died it replays in my head over and over. If I only knew

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