Grief and the Holidays

“Grief is not linear.”

 I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this in therapy, from other loss families, or from seasoned veterans of life who have experienced loss. And now more than ever, I know.

Grief is not a mountain you climb where once you reach the hardest part, it’s an easy downhill ride the rest of the way down. 

You never get over it. Losing a child is nothing you can even remotely, get over.

It is a lifetime of unknown, nonstop peaks and valleys in which you never know what each day will bring.

I have an idea of what times may be more challenging like milestones or holidays. But truthfully, there is not much you can do to prepare for the weight of the hardest days.

As we move through our fifth holiday season since Luca died, we are reminded of him in everything we do, everywhere we go, and in the children all around us. Most of the time it’s bittersweet, watching Elia take everything in, and wondering what it would have been like with him. It’s a mystery to us what it would have looked like to see our two children interacting and enjoying the holiday season, together.

It’s not all sad moments. With Elia around, it’s absolutely near 100% joyful everything. But there are times when it’s hard. When a family with two children Luca and Elia’s age walk by, Gina and I catch each other’s gazes and without saying a word, I know that she’s thinking the same exact thing I am- what if he was here?

Those instances are hard. Time stands still all over again.

So- what helps us?

It is the people who show up and ask us how we are or randomly check in, holding space for us when they know we are having a rough go, all the while knowing it might be uncomfortable but asking us anyway. It is a random text with Luca’s name in a picture.  It is people sharing Luca’s story with others. It is everyone who has ever showed up to his birthday celebration and skipped a rock into the ocean for him.

These souls that we call our friends and family help more than they will ever know. The friendship and the love given during these times, even nearly 5 years later, means the world to us.

Today, I got a holiday card made out to my entire family, including Luca. 

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It took my breath away.

It’s moments like these where I am so grateful that we have a village that knows how much it means to us, even though he isn’t here in the physical, to continue to remember Luca.

To the people around us who are silent, who don’t say a word while they watch us struggle, or never approach us or say his name, I want you to know-

You don’t have to fix us. It’s not your responsibility. But you can show up for us or any friend that is having a hard time by simply acknowledging the space they are in, or the feelings they are experiencing- especially around the holidays. I get it, it isn’t easy, and it can be totally awkward.  

But a wise friend once shared something I’ve said before-

“Joy shared is doubled. Grief shared is halved.”

So show up. Hold up someone else for a bit and double their joy, or hold some of the grief burden they carry.

Gina and I are certainly not the only ones that have ever experienced loss, and we will not the be the last. But if I can bestow any knowledge on my community based on our journey in loving Luca, and can help to create a world with a little more compassion for people going through truly harder times, then I feel like I’m doing something good in his memory.

Luca changed my life forever.

In the lowest lows, and the highest highs, he remains with us always. Please don’t ever forget that, because whether we are in the middle of a peak or a valley in our grief journey, we never will.