The Empty Chair: Honoring Grief On The Holidays

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Holidays look different on this side of grief. So why do we try to force it to be what it was? It's ok that life is not what we planned and the same goes for holidays. Reality is that there will always be an empty seat at my table and a missing piece of my heart. This is my truth. If I've learned anything it's that in order to maintain my peace I must surrender to what is and be willing to be honest about how I feel. My child is physically gone but his light shines in my life daily and I will continue to honor him in everything that I do.

Counting down to the holidays with dread isn't helpful. Instead, I focus on the present day without bracing for the heartbreak that may be lurking around the corner. I planned to make a carrot cake tomorrow for Thanksgiving but last night I got the urge to bake, so I made it. I am not putting more weight on Thanksgiving than any other day. We ate the cake and enjoyed it! And now if I still want carrot cake on Thanksgiving I can just make it again. I have made the decision to live for today because any parent who has lost a child knows that we cannot count tomorrows.

The holidays are a difficult time for many people who have experienced loss. We hear songs that say "It's the most beautiful time of the year" and we think to ourselves about all that we've lost and all that is missing. We start thinking about the favorite dish that we won't be making for our special someone this year and the laugh that we won't hear and it all becomes overwhelming.

We miss our loved ones everyday but something about the holiday season seems to magnify the empty chair at the table. When we have spent our lives anticipating family games, songs, food, and fellowship on the holidays the thought of one of our favorite people not being here to partake in the festivities can be suffocating.

My family used to look forward to the upcoming holiday, planning out large family gatherings with excitement. 2018 was the last holiday season before my son's sudden departure and it was perfect because we were together. At the time, there were many things I would have done differently, but now I hold onto the beauty in every moment we shared. I replay our Thanksgiving gratitude walk and our family outing to see Creed 2. I remember falling asleep on the couch, just Damani and I on New Year's Eve and waking up (after midnight) to do our countdown. I still have the unopened bottle of sparkling cider that I bought him that we never drank. At the time I felt bad that we didn't do more to bring in the year but now I cherish the cuddles we had on our last New Year's Eve together.

Last year was my first holiday season without Damani. He used to sit in the kitchen and watch me cook, talking and laughing as we made our way through preparing all his favorite dishes- macaroni and cheese, roast, peach cobbler, red velvet cake. It was our first time sitting togethe