Wednesday, December 9, 2015

12 DOC: Day Nine: MaryJo Carlson

*This post is part of our Twelve Days of Christmas series. You can read more here.*


Being Brave Enough to Say No
by MaryJo Carlson

I didn’t realize I was brave until years later and I looked back on our story. I only did what I knew I could do, and not what I couldn't. What I did was to say no to celebrating holidays after our grandson died. What I couldn’t do is lie about how I felt and pretend just to follow the traditions of this world.  Some may say lie is a harsh word to use in this situation but to me that is what it was. It was a lie to celebrate while every part of me was barely making it through each day.  My mother’s heart was totally broken.  Watching my daughter grieve the loss of her son is the hardest thing I have ever endured.  My grandmother’s heart was shattered without my grandson Samuel to love and adore here on earth.  

What do I do with this love? 

What do I do with this longing? 

What do I do with this despair; the complete loss and absence of hope? 

What do I do with my inability to heal my daughter and son-in-law’s hearts?

How do I do daily life and add holidays to it with a broken heart? 

I didn’t. I said no and it was the best thing I did.  But it was not easy.  I did not know I was being brave, I was only doing what I could do, and saying no to what I could not do, and that was celebrate.  

It took time, lots of time for me to truly grasp that the way to heal a broken heart it to let grief come and do its work. I personally believed God understood my broken heart.  I did not feel that the first year or the second. I felt utterly abandoned by God. Those were my darkest nights of my soul. There was no glimmer of a Christmas that first year.  That is almost none except right before Christmas day we dug out the lights and put some up to shine up to the heavens as a symbol to our grandson that we loved him and missed him so very, very much. And then I realized in a small and slow way that is what I do with this love for him and for my daughter and son-in-law is honor him, talk about him, celebrate his life even though he is not here with us. I needed to find ways to let this love flow out to others.  To find ways to walk this path with those who are grieving the loss of their precious and so very missed little ones. My longing for our story to be different slowly turned into a longing to make a difference in other hurting people’s life.

My despair was grief working its way through my heart and soul. With no hope there is no life and slowly but surely hope is returning.  No longer was it hope for things to change but hope that my life’s story could bring comfort to other hurting hearts. My new hope found a home by showing love to those who were just starting their journey of grief. To help them know they are not alone, that someone was out there that knew their kind of pain and cared deeply about their heart. I do not have the power to heal my daughter and son-in-law’s hearts but I can make a conscious effort to walk with them on their grief journey for the rest of my earthly life. 

To long with them for that day they will be reunited with their son in heaven.

To remember him and include his memory in our day in and day out life. 

Our holidays have changed completely.  We look for ways to have a much more peaceful, simple, quiet life which includes holidays.  We are learning to live a life that offers love to those who we come in contact with knowing that they may be carrying a grieving heart in need of encouragement. To live a life that forgives quickly. We want to offer this life hearts that are completely changed by this love that we carry; the love for a little boy gone-too-soon.  We will never stop wishing we had our grandson here with us. 

But we are believing that will change in an instant the moment we arrive in heaven. Are we healed? No, but we are more settled into incorporating this love and longing into our life.  The despair has turned into purpose; our inability to control life has found a peace and acceptance. And our love finds ways to add beauty to this life from our brokenness. A little boy named Samuel Evan is deeply loved, he is desperately missed and he has changed this grandma’s heart into truly knowing that every life, no matter how short, has great purpose.  Samuel’s life and his story is all about love and that love is 
continuing to do all that love can do. 

Over the past years of 12 days of Christmas I have shared how to incorporate Samuel’s life into our gatherings. You can read about that here

I grew up in a home where meals were a focal point to our celebrations.  My mother was an amazing cook and therefore the legacy of gathering around a table to enjoy good food together remains in me. Therefore, the idea of an empty chair for Samuel it a valuable part of our keeping his memory alive and lends itself to easily talking about him and imagining him with the family as we gather together this Christmas. Children are the very best at this.  They simply and lovingly talk about what he might be doing if he were here.  They imagine what he is doing in heaven.  We accept that tears still flow when we talk about him but we have added joy now to those talks.  We have his place card at his space at the table.  We have his candle there as well and this year we will be adding a plate and cup that I made.  It is a simple, inexpensive and creative way to continue to keep his memory alive in our life as a family.  



The tutorial on how to make the plate and cup will be shared later today.  

Wherever you find yourself on your grief journey today I want to offer my love to you.  If you are a loss mama or daddy this is the hardest thing you will ever do. I fully and completely honor and respect you for making it through each and every minute of every day. 

As a loss grandparent my heart knows a different pain, it runs deep and wide and desperate to fix this for my daughter and son-in-law but sadly I cannot. If you are a loss grandparent know you are not alone on this journey. I “get it”. Remember your grandchild and proudly carry their name with you on life’s journey. You are a grandparent to a perfect grandchild, go ahead and brag!  

My wish for each of you is that love and peace will comfort you in the moments when you need it the most this Christmas.


~ ~ ~
MaryJo Carlson and her husband David have five children. Their oldest daughter is RaeAnne Fredrickson, who started All That Love Can Do in memory of her precious son, Samuel Evan. MaryJo is a stay at home mom and grandma who now spends her time finding way to bring light and encouragement to others who have had to say goodbye to their beautiful grandchildren, way too soon. 


She runs the private groups, ATLCD_Grandparents (for loss grandparents), and Still Grandparents (for loss grandparents without a baby born after loss). 

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