Notes from Past Participants

Facing the Holidays – A Personal Story from a Friend of Bittersweet Place

“I used to wonder why people expressed extra concern for me during the holidays. I was fourteen years old when my mother died of colon cancer. At the time, I thought every day was extremely challenging. I remember going to grief counseling at high school and sitting with the other students, listening to them tell their stories and just crying the entire time I was there. I couldn’t grasp the concept that when the next big holiday came it might be even more challenging than waking up every morning without my mom and going to school.

When the next big holiday came, I realized what everyone was talking about. The traditions were just not the same. I didn’t want to see my extended family without my mom there to tell me who everyone was. I now understood that as the everyday events got easier without my mom, the special holiday traditions hadn’t had as much time to heal. They magnified again what was missing in our family.

My family and I made it through the holidays together. It was a challenge, but by making simple decisions to change some holiday traditions and keep others, we made it through.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I think it is because we were most successful at making it special in different ways without mom around. My family and I became involved with a bereavement center for kids. While helping them, we were able to participate in the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade! I have wonderful memories of being a part of the biggest parade I had been in with people I cared about. We were promoting an organization that helped us through the hard times and was still helping us through the holidays.

Christmas is more of a challenge for me even now as I approach my eighth Christmas without my mom. No Christmas has been the same without her and we have struggled to maintain a new family tradition. Every year something different brings healing. For example, many years after my mom died I didn’t even enjoy listening to Christmas music except maybe on the day of. Now, I can hear it and even sing along! Christmas trees have been the biggest challenge. I don’t want to get out all of the ornaments that hold so many memories, and I still have been unable to do so. Regardless, I have succeeded in putting up some sort of simple Christmas tree every year. Christmas is by far the most Bittersweet Holiday for me. Some years it stays bitter, but I have found joy in spending time with family and participating in some of the same traditions since I was a little girl.

The holidays will always bring challenges as they remind me again and again how much I miss my mom. However, every year there is hope and healing. Through bringing new traditions and maintaining some of the old ones, I have come to understand that the holidays can truly be Bittersweet.”

Anonymous Letter from a Parent

“To all my friends at Bittersweet. Just want to say thank you for all the help you have given to me and my family. I needed someone that understood what we were going thru. I really can’t thank you all enough for just listening to me as my tears flowed.”

Notes from a Child

  • I’m thankful for all I have.
  • I’m thankful for my friends who laugh and support me as I learn.
  • I’m thankful for all memories though some hurt me in my heart; my time spent with ones I love carries forever although we are apart.
  • I’m thankful you listen and nurture me as I go through my years.  I promise to show your gifts you gave me to all I hold so dear.