I Need to Say Her Name: Surviving the Holidays

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In 2007 my elder daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Helen loved Christmas and the first one without her was indescribably painful. I thought the second Christmas without Helen would be easier for me. It wasn’t. In fact, my grief seemed worse.

While my grief has eased during the passing years, every bereaved parent knows holidays can spark grief again. We go backwards on the recovery/reconciliation path and may come to dread the holidays. We’ve lived another year without a child and there are more years to come. So how can we survive? I don’t know about you, but I need to say my daughter’s name aloud. And I need to tell Helen stories that remind me of her.

Close friends often smile when I tell stories about my daughter. However people who don’t really know me, yet know my story, tend to change the subject quickly. They want to avoid any association with grief. Bereaved parents like you and me can’t avoid grief during the holidays. Instead, we learn to live with loss and practice self-care. Some families place a photo of their deceased child on the holiday dining table. Although my husband and I have never done this, displaying a photo may comfort you.

When I think of Helen stories the first one that comes to mind is her solution for a pet hamster losing the end of his tail. The twins loved their hamster and were upset when they found the tip of his tail. Helen, a composite engineer with six industry certifications, came up with a original solution. She glued the tail back on with super glue and it took!

A friend shared another story about Helen. At a time of life when she was strapped for money, Helen stopped by and gave the friend a cutting from a raspberry bush. She told the friend how to root the cutting and plant it. The friend remembers Helen’s simple gift to this day.

Helen told me a story about  managing a production line. One worker didn’t approve of female managers and, to make things worse, decided not to insert a screw in the product because it was unnecessary. Helen told him the screw was necessary for safety, but the man refused to insert it. “Then I’ll shut down the production line and you will be the cause,” Helen countered. Apparently the worker checked on Helen’s ability to shut down a production line, because he changed his mind and inserted the screw.

Each story illustrates a different facet of Helen’s personality. The hamster tail story illustrates ingenuity and humor. The raspberry bush illustrates kindness. The production line story illustrates values. Telling stories about a deceased child is comforting and helps to keep that child alive in memory. Although our children aren’t physically present, our love for them never wanes.

Deep in our hearts, we know our children would want us to enjoy the holidays. Let’s tell stories about them and speak their names with joy. We are their parents and always will be.

Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson, BS, MA has been an independent journalist for more than 35+ years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the MN Coalition for Death Education and Support. Hodgson writes for www.ezinearticles.com and has earned top status. A prolific author, she is the author of hundreds of articles and 31 books. All of her writing comes from experience and heer recent books focus on grief recovery: * Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss * The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul * 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope * Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life * Writing to Recover Journal (with 100 writing prompts) * Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, co-author In 2007, after her daughter's death and former son-in-law's death, she became a GRG, grandparent raising grandchildren. Her latest book, Help! I'm Raising My Grandkids: Grandparents Adapting to Life's Surprise, came from this experience. In addition to writing books, Hodgson is a columnist for "Caregiving in America" magazine and Assistant Editor of ADEC Connects, the electronic newsletter of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. A popular speaker, Hodgson has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer's, hospice, and grief conferences. She has appeared on more than 160 talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations/programs, including CNN. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors and other directories. She lives in Rochester, MN with her husband and twin grandchildren. Please visit www.harriethodgson.com for more information about this busy author and grandmother. Books by Harriet Hodgson The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon, www.amazon.com 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope, available from Amazon, www.amazon.com Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon, www.amazon.com Writing to Recover Journal, available from Centering Corporation, www.centering.org and Amazon. Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, Co-Author, available from Amazon, www.amazon.com

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