This Christmas will be the eighth Christmas since my daughter Shayna passed away at the age of just fifteen years old. While Shayna was (and is) special in many ways, she was a typical kid because she loved Christmas. In our family, the holidays and birthdays were all bundled together. Our wedding anniversary was in early November, followed closely by my older daughter’s birthday in late November, Thanksgiving, Christmas, then Shayna’s birthday in early January. She couldn’t get enough of the late fall and early winter celebrations.
When Shayna passed away, it changed everything about our lives. Holidays and birthdays became particularly hard. The anticipation of them was as difficult as the days themselves. Well-meaning friends called up to say how difficult they knew the day would be. Traveling to be with my family was tough, especially being around my brother’s family because he has two girls who are each only a couple of months different in age from my girls. Shayna’s cousin, Briana, was so close to her that they called themselves “Peanut Butter and Jelly.” They even wrote, performed, and videotaped a song with the same title. We played that at Shayna’s celebration of life. Being with Briana and her family was a reminder that we didn’t have Shayna with us.
How the Holidays Have Changed
The first years were hard. The holidays had changed. I avoided being in these situations as much as I could. I would find reasons to leave early. It was just too painful. Since the year my wife was pregnant with Shayna, the four of us spent Christmas together in our house. We cut out travel for Christmas Day. Yet, even that didn’t completely shield me from the pain as the house wasn’t the same without Shayna’s effervescent smile and her zest for life.
As the years have gone by, we have developed coping mechanisms that help. Shayna is a big part of the day. She always has been. She always will be. We have her favorite things for breakfast and dinner. On her birthday, we go out for pizza and have dessert, Shayna’s favorite thing. We tell stories about her. One of my favorites, when the subject of pizza comes up, is the time she was going out for pizza with a volleyball teammate and her family. We mentioned we might go out for pizza, too. Shayna insisted that we not get pizza without her. She wasn’t going to miss anything, even if she was having pizza somewhere else at the same time.
What Helped After the Holidays Changed
Something a medium told my daughter Kayla in a reading has helped tremendously. Shayna told Kayla not to feel guilty about living the rest of her life and enjoying it. She said she would always be there enjoying it right beside her. She encouraged Kayla to go out and have adventures so Shayna could be there with her. I miss Shayna physically on holidays. But I always try to keep in mind she’s enjoying it as much as I will allow myself to enjoy it.
As November draws to a close and we are in the midst of the holiday season, I go into it with gratitude that I’ve survived eight seasons since Shayna passed. I didn’t think that possible. I am doing work I love and honor her memory every day. A picture of her still brings a tear to my eye at times. A smile always follows that tear, knowing we are still doing this together and I’m going to see her one day and make her proud.
A few weeks ago, my nephew got married. He is the brother of Briana, the Jelly of Peanut Butter and Jelly. As our little troop, the three of us entered the church, I longed to have Shayna with us. While we waited to have our pictures taken by the wedding photographer, I looked at the floor under the front-row pew just in front of me. There, right at my feet, sat a dime. Finding a dime was the first sign I asked Shayna for almost eight years to the day before that day. I knew Shayna was there with us.
Visit Brian’s website at https://www.grief2growth.com/
Read more from Brian: www.opentohope.com/crisis-is-a-chance-to-address-the-big-questions-in-life/