This article was originally published on October 14, 2008, in www.opentohope.com, a website whose mission is to help those who have suffered a loss to cope with their pain and invest in the future.
When the first Halloween arrived soon after our son’s death, I could hardly bear to think of it. Clint loved fall and Halloween. He took such joy in the season: football games, corn mazes, haunted houses and parties. It almost felt like a betrayal of sorts for me to hate the season now, but I couldn’t help it. In the beginning, everything about it brought me pain.
It was especially hard to look at some of the gloomier decorations. Since I couldn’t change how others celebrated this time of the year, I tried to focus on the simpler things: uncut pumpkins, the changing leaves, vibrating autumn flowers.
My husband and I searched to find ways to honor our memories. We decided to continue the family tradition of volunteering to pass out candy at the local zoo. As we busily filled each child’s treat bag that night, we privately reviewed our own memories.
Slowly, with time and healing, I have found that I can handle most of the traditional decorations and festivities. Now, three years later, there are still some times when I must remind myself not to focus on the more grim items of the season. I want to use the energy of my thoughts to hold onto and enjoy my precious memories.
I have found that some activities feel right and others don’t. I keep what works and abandon what doesn’t. Sometimes, nothing feels right. We each must find our own way of handling each holiday. I know another mother who hands out anti-drug information with her treats.
Be patient and don’t put too much expectation on the day or on yourself. I have found it to be true that most of the time the anticipation of a holiday is worse than the actual holiday. The best advice is to continue to take this journey one day at a time and to honor the memory of your child in your own way.