Eph : 4:22 You were taught not to live the way you used to. You must get rid of your old way of life. That's because it is polluted by longing for things that lead you down the wrong path. (NIRV).
Having gotten through the festivities and celebrations of the Christmas season, we are now faced with the New Year and all that comes with it.
We bring in the new year, either hearing champagne bottle corks popping, watching fireworks light up the skies or hugging and sharing peace with strangers, friends and family members at church. One thing that is basically common to most people is New Year’s resolutions. What we plan to do or not do for the new year. Mostly focused on health, spirituality and new goals, leaving old habits behind.
For many years Noel and I stayed at home with the kids and brought in the new year reflecting on the old, discussing what could be done better. Praying. Making plans to live healthier, better, more productive lives and promising to focus on our spirituality.
2008 was different for our family. We were moving into a new year making promises of new things, new beginnings, better lives but this was all without JB. The foundation was launched so we were distracted with putting things in place and planning new ways to assist and really thinking about the needs of families of children with cancer and what support was required.
Very exciting. Making a positive difference. Purpose.
In the midst of all the positive planning and forward momentum there was a measure of sadness that consumed me. I became very fearful. I wanted so desperately to stay in 2007. In my mind moving forward was leaving JB behind. It was easier to say “JB died earlier this year” or he died a few months ago. Staying in 2007 would mean that just a few months ago I held him. We spoke, laughed, watched television… just a few months ago. Crossing over to 2008 would change things in my mind. He would have died last year. My last physical contact with him would have been “last year”. That scared me. I did not want time to pass. I wanted to stay close and connected to the last time we hugged.
Society messes with our minds when it comes to how our New Year should be, and we make all these promises that are really hard to keep. That year I learned to let go of what society says. I decided to do what was comfortable for me. Even the grieving process is questioned. How long we should grieve and just how we should grieve. I’ve heard comments like “she should be over that by now. Look how long it’s been.” But no one can really put a time frame to how you should feel or what methods will work for you. There are guidelines, but your grief is unique.
In 2013, 6 years after JB died I had yet another hurdle to cross. The realisation that JB was dead longer than he had lived. As parents we still have dates, and milestones and think about what he would have been doing now, and what he would look like. I think it’s healthy to wonder, it’s okay to imagine and it’s perfectly sane to pretend.
Reaching out to others and accepting support is often difficult, particularly when you hurt so much. But the most compassionate self-action you can do at this difficult time is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need. Seek out those people who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings – both happy and sad.
A support group may be one of the best ways to help yourself. In a group, you can connect with other parents who have experienced the death of a child. You will be allowed and gently encouraged to talk about your child as much, and as often, as you like. - Dr. A.D. Wolfelt
At the Just Because Foundation we launched an initiative called EMBRACE. It is part of our holistic support for families of children with cancer. It was started from the understanding that the need for emotional support does not come to an end with the loss of a child. In fact, for some family members, it’s now more important than ever, as they are forced to come to terms with emotions they may have suppressed during the journey in addition to the crushing reality of the death of their child. EMBRACE is based on the model of a peer counselling group where families at different stages of the journey can share their thoughts and emotions and provide advice on coping skills and encouragement for each other.
It’s been 11 years and I’m in a better place. I still prefer to stay home and pray my way into the new year. The difference is I set daily goals to do better and feel better because the truth is with each new day there is hope, new opportunities and possibilities. I make plans to do better but with no pressure. If I fail, I start fresh with the dawning of each new day.
During the Christmas season, I was invited out and treated to a lovely dinner by some of the EMBRACE moms who were also performers at our HOPE Concert in June 2018. This cemented their bond and they have been great friends since. It was wonderfully refreshing and it made me realize how important it is for us to stay together to support each other. Because of them I have made a New Year’s resolution, a commitment, a promise to re-launch the EMBRACE initiative and meet once per quarter for 2019.
I thought this group was about me helping parents, but I have been on the receiving end of that support. Indeed, everything happens for a reason!
In 2019, Embrace everyone you meet, and know that with each new day there is Hope!