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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

Dear Grieving Mama, What You Don't Need to Apologize for this Christmas

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This year.

Heaven and Earth.

Basically: Our oldest son became a Marine... A MARINE?!?!?! He is a combat engineer. I specifically forbade the blowing up of things. And yet, he blows things up FOR A LIVING. Oldest daughter eloped, we moved from our home of 25 years — oh, to Houston, during Hurricane Harvey, evacuated, moved back to Houston, my first book launched, our youngest adopted son started kindergarten, our youngest biological daughter went from homeschool to a HUGE high school in a new town, and our foster-daughter, who brought joy and laughter to every aspect of my life, was returned to her restored birth mother's arms.

After 18 months in our care, I grieve. Please, don't get me wrong, I rejoice too. But oh, how I grieve. As we pulled out the Christmas tree this year I begrudgingly yanked the lid off the ornament box and was slain with heart break. I don't know how, but the little foster love's tiny size 2 pink flannel coat was sitting on top of the ornaments.

Why? I have no idea. I cannot fathom how it ended up in there. However, while I try and only sob in the bathroom or in the rare incident I am alone in my car, I completely and utterly lost it. Collapsing to my knees I clung to that coat as if she were back, as if I begged and pleaded hard enough, or loud enough... I could hold her one last time.

The devastation I felt as I watched the taillights of her social worker driving her out of our lives was as fresh and as painful as it had ever been.

And there I sat, clutching this coat. Our two young sons couldn't be spared the scene and both of them ran to console me. The three year old patted me and said, "It's okay mommy, hers will be back soon." I gulped on broken sobs because, no, she won't. Our teens turned up the Christmas music and busied themselves to "make it happen." I crawled to the couch and watched as our children hung our dearest memories on a tree.

"Home Alone 2" blared and my husband brought out milk and cookies for children and a glass of ice cold wine for me.

And I grieved. At one point I apologized for my paralysis. Our 18-year-old son, Luke said it best, "You don't have to be sorry."

I don't?


He was right.

I don't.

I don't have to be sorry for being sad. And I feel like shouting this to every mom on the planet: The holidays do not negate a broken heart or weary spirit.

My Christmas tree does look as though it was decorated by children, it is a red hot mess. Last year I would have rearranged every aspect of it, this year, I grieve.

PFC John Amerine will not be home for Christmas. I cannot change this, I admire his choice. I pray he is well. Next year maybe I will make every effort to get him home or go to him. This year, I grieve.

My husband baked cookies, drove a teen to a party, and wrapped gifts for the teacher. I can't this year... this year, I grieve. And no, moms can't fully check out. Although, I awkwardly wandered into the preschool to pick up the 3-year-old 20 minutes AFTER his Christmas pageant, and for that I am sorry. But this year, I grieve.

I love well. That is the best part of my job. And I have come to view grief as a celebration. A ceremony indicative of having loved well, and lost. It is an honor to love like only a mother can. The loss is worthy of the celebration of grieving well.


I hear this from readers, friends, and reader-friends. A wayward teen, a marriage ending, an aging parent, a child... gone. To you I shout, "GRIEVE!" Buy cookies from the grocery store or just slice and bake, stay in your pajamas every chance you get, cut corners, order a pre-baked ham, let not the season of gladness rob you of the opportunity to grieve. As well as you loved, grieve with the same passion and heartfelt truth. Afford the loss the attention it needs to heal. Do not rush or skip over, it deserves so much more. Forfeiting this to feign a season of sugar plums will cost you more later than it does now.

Need more? Need more glad tiding and homemade baking, then do that. Do the things that bring you the most healing and comfort in a season of loss, but do not do it the way everyone says you should. Let them see you cry, it won't kill them. Let them see you at your worst, then they will fully recognize you at your finest. Christmas and New Years will come and go, whether you are frosting gingerbread men or crumpled on the floor holding a tiny pink coat. Dear Grieving Mama, make no apologies, excuses, or try and fix things outside your control. Some years are harder than others... this year, I grieve.

You're welcome to join me.

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