A Gift for the Bereaved

by Maria Kubitz

The holidays can be a lonely and difficult time for people who have lost someone close to them. Lonely from the isolation they feel at secretly – or not so secretly – resenting the joy the season brings when they are filled with despair so deep that it colors their every thought. Difficult because the overwhelming pain of missing someone so dear to them leaves them feeling as if it would have been easier if the world itself had just come to an end when their loved one died.

When you experience a loss so profound that it shakes you to your very core, your outlook on life inevitably changes. Things that once seemed important may tend to appear trivial in the sobering reality of the fragility and unpredictability of life. In this light, the materialism of Christmas and other gift-giving holidays might seem unimportant to them. Short of bringing their loved one back from the dead, they may not want to receive anything that can be wrapped in a box.

Thinking back to that first holiday season after my four-year-old daughter’s death, I didn’t want to receive gifts at all. What I craved the most involved no wrapping paper or bows. Many days I didn’t have the energy to venture out of the house or sometimes even to talk, and would have appreciated the simple act of quiet companionship. Sometimes all I wanted was a loving hug and someone to cry with.

Over the years since my daughter’s death, my grief has evolved and my needs have changed. However, one thing has remained the same: I miss hearing her name. After the first few weeks and months after Margareta’s death, most people stopped talking about her. It had become too painful for them. It is very isolating to feel the pain of missing someone, constantly think of them, and yet feel as though the rest of the world has forgotten about them.

The best gift family and friends could offer me now is the gift of hearing them say her name out loud without me bringing her up first. I would love the simple act of hearing them say, “I thought of Margareta today. I really miss her.” It might bring tears to my eyes, but it would bring happiness to my aching heart.