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December 18, 2019

Waves of Grief: Getting through the Holidays without my Daughter.

When you lose a child, or someone you are very close to, grief becomes a new constant companion.

It’s hard work. At times, it is debilitating and unrelenting as it comes in unexpected waves, like the ocean. 

Personally, I try to remember all the good moments and separate them from the sad/difficult or last moments. I have no skills when it comes to dealing with grief. With grief as my companion this year, I realize everyone handles grief differently and in his/her own time.

There is no right or wrong way to manage grief. 

There are those who feel and even suggest we must move on from grief. I am here to tell you, that is simply not possible. In the year since my daughter’s passing, I have learned that we don’t move on from grief—instead, we move alongside it. We carry this grief, our new companion, and although we may try to leave it behind, we cannot.

It’s there in the morning when we wake and it’s there in the evening when we try to go to sleep. We push through it when we can. We gradually learn to live with the weight of it. We hide our hard moments, our hard days, and we keep moving until the next wave hits.

Sometimes we go under; the waves of grief are too heavy for us to hold up.

The holidays, as expected, do make grief heavier—triggers are everywhere. My daughter will never give me another Christmas list. My sweet girl will never help me decorate the tree or bake holiday treats again. Oh, how she loved holidays! It seems everywhere I turn there is a reminder of what I have lost. As I rise above the wave, I gulp for air, and I summon my strength. Like putting on a life vest, I hold on, and wait for the pain to lessen.

It is during these times that I remind myself that my daughter is still with me. She’s is the twinkle in the Christmas lights and the flicker of the candle flame. She is in the hug I get from her big brother every day. She is love and laughter and she knew exactly how to live in the moment better than anyone else I have ever known.

She taught me that lesson on a difficult car ride home from the hospital. We had just learned from her oncologist that she had relapsed and we both knew that she would need a new plan and more treatment to fight Ewing’s Sarcoma. We both did our best to hide the silent tears on the car ride home. I gently offered to cancel her movie plans with friends for later that evening. With a look of defiance, she glared at me and asked “Why would I do that? Cancer has already taken so much from me! Why would I let it ruin my night?” With conviction, she declared, “ I am going to the movies and I am having fun with my friends. I will deal with cancer tomorrow.” 

As I ride the waves of grief, I will continue to summon the strength to remember the joy and the love. I will carry grief next to my endless love for her along with all the beautiful memories we had during her 16 years of life. 

~

Shelly Shinebarger
Mother of Kristen, Forever 16

 

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