I’m writing this the day after Halloween, a holiday (mostly) for children. We decided to lay low and not participate in any way. No costumes, candy, parties, or trick-or-treaters. Our porch lights turned off made us look like the lame party poopers we were being. It’s something I needed to do, for my own protection. Events that revolve around the joy of children are very hard for me. There’s no child in this home to dress up in a creative or “punny” costume, no instagram post with a “My First Halloween” onesie, no need to go to a pumpkin patch or fall festival. All of these events are buzzing with the joy of little ones at this fun time of year. Since we lost our Millie, every day looks different. There is yet to be a day that I don’t wake up thinking how the day would be different if she were here, or what I would be doing instead. Seeing all the cute costumes reminds me of what we don’t have, which for now is still very painful. I know that we are just getting started with this time of year where we realize how much we are missing without Millie here.
If you’re a friend of someone who has experienced loss, give them some extra grace around special holidays or events. Go ahead and keep inviting them to things, but don’t take it personally if they decline. My favorite kind of invitation goes something like this…
”We’d love to have you join us for _______, but we also understand that this may be a difficult commitment to make this time of year. Just let us know on the day of if you’re interested in coming!”
This lets your friend know you aren’t isolating them or excluding them in activities or parties they would usually be invited to. It also tells them you know that each day is different for them, and that it’s ok to say “No” if they aren’t up to it. They will appreciate you forever for your kindness in this kind of invitation.
If you’re someone who is going through grief yourself, I offer you the same advice as I would your friends. Give yourself (and friends and family) an extra dose of grace as we enter this holiday season. Allow yourself an out if you need to. If you can, be honest. I have replied to some invitations like this…
“Thank you so much for inviting me, but that is something that is really hard for me this time of year.”
As a family we have now entered the understanding that it’s not always “Happy Holidays” for everyone. For the families who are missing someone at the table, even the happiest of times have a little dose of sadness. This is not something to be pitied, but to be understood. Understanding that your friend will never be the same again, and being kind enough to realize they may need some extra thoughtful attention from you as the holiday traditions approach.