This beautiful piece was written last week by a grieving mom, Laurie Robinson. She doesn’t know it but she is an inspiration to all who know her and all who know her feel blessed. CAP
To be thankful or not be thankful….the ever present dilemma of grieving parents. This will be the first Thanksgiving without my daughter, Jenna. She passed away in June, at the age of 27, in a single vehicle car accident. I’ve been dreading the upcoming holidays. I’m not new to the loss of a child as I lost two little girls years ago. Julie was 3 when she passed away in 1993, and Marie was 4 in 1998 when she left our arms. Both of them had severe physical disabilities which eventually lead to their deaths. While we expected their deaths…it was still hard. But yet we could gain peace and strength knowing they were now released from their pain and from their physical bodies that were becoming such a burden to them. Holidays since then have always been different…they are never far from my thoughts and so much closer whenever our family is together and I’m reminded that we aren’t “whole”. Now we have experienced yet another loss to our family, and us “seasoned grievers” are knocked to our knees, once again. Jenna often spent more time with others then she did with our family. But she was always there on Thanksgiving. Never one to help in the kitchen, but always one to ask “what are we having to eat”? Always one to wander in and out to check on the progress of the delicious meal that was being prepared…always quiet and preferring to stay in the background…but always there… and always welcomed.
So how do I find it in my heart to be thankful, when so often I feel like my family has already endured so much?
For many years I’ve had a tradition of “thankful posts” on FB. I start on the first of Nov and continue until Thanksgiving Day. I struggled this year…I did post a couple, but couldn’t find it in my heart to post every day. I did enjoy reading previous posts from earlier years, and shared those posts from years past. I found that I began to look forward to the next day and what “thankful posts” I would find from previous years. It became a way for me to start the day…reading my own words and remembering what gratitude I used to have. I’d always stop and think; “I had Jenna then…” and would get such a smile in my heart whenever I’d find one that included her.
I belong to a compassionate friends group on FB for grieving parents, and I’ve read many angry posts from others about all the thankful posts they see. Parents that are angry, and sad, and struggling, and wondering what they have to be thankful for. I understand that and know that we all grieve and feel very differently.
My faith is strong, even with all the trials I’ve had to endure. I know I’ll see my sweet girls again…but how do I continue to find happiness and inner peace until then??? How do I enjoy this time I have left on earth, instead of looking forward to that long awaited reunion with my daughters?? I think I’m slowly finding the answer…Gratitude…
Although it’s ironic, one of the surest ways to feel better in tough moments is to consider the blessings we have in our lives. I think I’ve gained strength these past few weeks, by reading those quiet moments of previous gratitude…moments when I did have a grateful heart…I know that’s easier said than done…but I started small…very small.
- I began being thankful for just having the courage and ability to get out of bed each day…courage to face another day with a piece of my heart missing.
- I’m thankful for the sun and the way it reminds me that I have another day ahead to do something kind for someone, in memory of my daughters.
- I’m thankful when the day is rainy and gloomy because it mirrors the feelings in my soul…the sound of rain echoes the sound of my tears as they fall from my eyes. A gloomy day is a day that makes me feel like God is showing that he is grieving with me too.
- I’m thankful for my living daughters and the strength I see in them…and the strength they give to me. They’ve already gone through so much in their lives, but it has made them compassionate and loving human beings.
- I’m thankful for my friends. You really understand who is a true friend when you lose a child and look up to see who is still standing next to you…friends who drop what they are doing to come and hold you while you cry…friends who bring you lunch and stay to eat with you…friends who don’t just say kind words, but who put actions to those words and mow your lawn and plant your flowers…friends who set up funds to help you financially ease the burden of funeral expenses…friends who know which “Willow Tree Angel” would bring comfort to your heart…friends who bring you flowers on Jenna’s birthday because they know it’s a hard day for you…friends who don’t forget you after the funeral, but continue to ask how you are…friends who still say Jenna’s name…
- I’m thankful for prayer…the prayers that were said for my family…the prayers that gave us strength…the prayers that lifted us up. The prayers that I often say. Sometimes all I can manage to get out is “please help me…”, but I know God hears them and knows what I need. I’m grateful that I know God is aware of me and my struggles…grateful that I know he hears me…grateful that I know he loves me…grateful that I know Jenna is with him…and that he loves her as much as I do.
- I’m thankful that I can grieve in my own way and for as long as I need to. I know this is an intensely personal journey that I am on. I don’t always openly show my pain and grief…but I do talk about it and share my journey with others.
- I’m thankful that losing my daughters isn’t all about sadness, anger, and loss…I’ve found good in it…I’ve found that it’s given me compassion and empathy towards others struggles.
- I’m thankful for ears that listen. Life gets so busy and so many times we stop listening…really listening to others. I’ve learned that none of us get through this life unscathed…we all have a cross to bear. We just may not always see what it is…but if you take the time to share your pain with others, you will receive back more than you gave. I don’t always have the answers, but I can take a moment and hear what you are saying…a moment to let you know that I care…a moment to make you feel like you matter…a moment to love you.
- And now for probably the hardest “thankful post”…I’m thankful for small parts of Jenna’s death…I’m thankful that we had some laughable times in the week before she died…I’m thankful that I told her I loved her…thankful that she died instantly and probably didn’t even know what was happening…thankful for the man that stopped and held her until the ambulance came…thankful that her accident didn’t cause anyone else’s death…thankful that I could see her one last time…thankful for her beautiful service..and thankful for finding a peaceful, beautiful place in the cemetery for her…I’m thankful that she came to me in a dream and let me know she’s “okay”…small things to be grateful for, but oh so powerful…
I still have bad days…days filled with nothing but tears and anguish. I know the holidays will be difficult and different, but I know if I can make gratitude a “habit of my heart” that I will be okay. Jenna and Julie and Marie will still be there… I will strive hard to count my blessings instead of my losses…and my Thanksgiving Prayer will be that God will open up the windows of heaven for all the grieving parents and children and allow them to feel their loved ones presence…
Thank you Laurie.