My second Christmas without my child

by Tamara Harvey Braswell

Tamara and Logan

I will never forget the date, 5:30 a.m., July 22, 2016. My 19-year-old son Logan was pronounced dead in a Virginia hospital. Every bone in his body broken, bleeding from the inside out. His eyes black, his head swollen, his blonde hair blood stained from fatal injuries that literally crushed him when he took the street curve too fast and slammed his truck head on into a tree less than a half mile from our home.

I would never again hear him say, “I love you mom,” or feel that rush of excitement waiting to greet him at the airport when he returned home for Christmas break.

This year marks my second Christmas without Logan, my only child. Once a Christmas spirit freak who loved lights and decorations, I am no longer interested. The sound of Christmas music makes me cringe. I avoid the big box stores with rows of plastic trees and shelves lined with Christmas junk.

I want to bypass the holiday altogether and fast forward to the business of January.

I spent my first childless Christmas in Florida. I had to be in a completely different place that felt like summer and not winter.

It helped until the Christmas potluck dinner, held outside under the palm trees. I placed a picture of Logan on a table, hoping others would remember him and ask me how I was doing. After all, it was my first Christmas without Logan.

No one commented about his picture. No one remembered him at dinner. That hurt deeply, as if Logan never existed. I wanted to scream, “Wake up people, you’ll eventually be dead and forgotten too at Christmas dinner…now how does that feel!”

I am bracing for for my second Christmas after Logan died. I am still a beginner in dealing with holidays and the loss of a child. It will never get easier, but friends and family should not be afraid to show they care.

For those of you who don’t know what to say or how to act around a bereaved parent during the holidays, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Show you care. Don’t be afraid to ask me about my child. Sure, I may tear up and the conversation may make you feel uncomfortable, but l like to talk about my son just as you like to talk about your loved ones.
  • Please stop saying, “I can’t imagine,” or “I don’t think I could survive my child’s death.” Truth is you can imagine. And you would find a way to survive. You are not any stronger or resilient than I am. The shit storm hit me and I hope you never have to experience this. I do what I have to do to keep on living.
  • If you knew my son, don’t let his memory fade. Talk about him, share a story about what he meant to you or some crazy thing he did. Those stories are precious gifts to me.
  • If I tell you I lost my son and you didn’t know him, don’t go off in la-la land talking about some insignificant bull-shit. Say your sorry with a little meaning and then we can delve into mindless chatter.
  • Know this time of year is very painful for bereaved parents. The grief doesn’t fade, we don’t move on. We bear the pain. We carry the grief because that is the only thing left of our child.
  • Please stops saying God heals all pain. This is a pain that doesn’t heal. It becomes a part of you. God is there to help you through it.
  • Some folks say – Logan is in a better place. He is with God. I know he is, but Logan belongs here with me and his family at Christmas.

As I get ready to mark Christmas number 2, I will not be silent about my grief, my son and my love for him.

Tamara writes about her son Logan on “In Logan’s Shoes.”

23 thoughts on “My second Christmas without my child”

  1. There is a special kinship among those of us who have suffered this horrendous grief. I am facing my first holiday season without my youngest son and the pain is piercing. I grieve for everyone in this situation and am grateful for your willingness to share. I am still trying to figure out how to ‘be’ and these uncharted waters feel like they are going to carry me away to endlessly drift at sea. I went to a service at St. Stephens Episcopal church last Monday (first time I have been to church since Jared died) and each parent was given a candle and allowed to briefly speak of their child and say their name out loud. I cannot say how I felt about any of it except that portion— recognizing his presence in my heart out loud to others honored his life in a tiny way. I miss him with a vengeance. Thanks for providing a forum to share.

    1. Oh Maureen what a lovely story about St Stephens. I’m so sorry about your son. Being in a place where we can talk is so important. You can always talk about him here and we will listen. It does feel like being tossed into a desert with no compass. I, like you, felt so lost. What do I do? How do I deal with all this pain? To say it was overwhelming undermines the impact of losing a child. I will always miss Charles and getting used to having grief in my life took a long time.Thank you for being part of this community.

  2. Tamara, I knew Logan as he ran with my daughter Molly. We would talk at the AFC as I usually would see him in the locker room before I would go for my swim. I loved talking to him as he was one of the rare teenagers that would take the time to truly talk to an adult. He had a real warmth about him and he was always more interested in hearing about others vs. talking about himself. My memories of Logan are those conversations we had and of seeing run through Fox Croft, which he did often. He was a beautiful young man.

  3. I hurt for all of you who have lost a child. Every day is a struggle, but somehow it is even worse at the holidays because that is the time you are to be with your family. I send you many hugs of comfort and learn from each one of you. Thank you for posting.

  4. Tamara,
    Your post is very true. I am experiencing my 12th Christmas without my only son, Marc. I still have troubles during the holidays. I think of him and miss him daily. Time has not really healed my heart. It is still just as broken as it was on September 26, 2005. I have learned how to cope with the hole in my heart. I attend a weekly meeting with other men who have also lost a child. We talk about our children often, but just being among people that know our pain is comforting.
    I send you my thoughts and know that no words can be said to give you comfort. Cherish your memories of Logan. They will get you through the tough times. Talk to him as if he were there with you. He is listening.

    1. Thank you Rick. The second year is harder than the first and there are some nights that are so dark I just don’t want to wake up, but I do. We all do and we find a way to keep on going. I find a great deal of comfort in being with bereaved parents.

  5. Tamara – this is a great post!! Thanks for sharing. I am thinking about you and your family and praying for you. God bless you in this most difficult journey. Let me know if you ever need to talk to a fellow struggler.

  6. Tamera – I’m sorry if I hijacked your post. I just wanted you to know that I am there with you, and apparently I got going. Wishing you peace.

  7. Xmas #3 here. Thousand-yard stare. And yeah the social stigma so evident as time moves on. Others don’t want to be sucked into our darkness. I understand it but doesn’t make it easier. Went to one of Daniel’s friends wedding the other day. Wow, takes so much to rise above my own sorrow and genuinely show happiness for others. But I did. OK, maybe the five cold Stella’s helped during the reception.

    1. David – good work. It’s hard, grueling work. But nice job, at a Christmas wedding no less.
      Wishing for you some peace this weekend.

  8. Tamara, I could have written some of this myself. I am on Christmas #5 without my only child, Whitten. Our first Christmas sort of doesn’t count, as he killed himself on the 20th, and 5 days later, we sat under the tree in shock, unwrapping the presents that I had just wrapped for him. I also want to bypass the holidays altogether as well.
    I have a similar (potluck) situation with a small group of my “best” friends. They don’t ask how I am. Ever. They don’t talk about him or mention him. They are back to talking incessantly about their kids. If I bring him up, they listen and then change the subject. They never bring him up. At our annual Christmas gathering, which I would love to skip altogether, one (another boy mom) actually said to me, when the others were talking about the merits of daughters, “Gray, wouldn’t you love to have a daughter? Don’t you wish you had girls?” No one skipped a beat… And my very best friend, who is an art teacher, discussed a situation regarding suicide as we passed around our gifts. On the other hand, a friend sent me one of my old Christmas cards when Whitten was 5, with his picture, with her card and a beautiful note. She found it while cleaning out to move. How thoughtful and sweet. It took my breath away when I opened it. I left it out on the table for people to see when we had a gathering this past week. Not one person mentioned it to me. I keep trying to give them hints, and they just don’t take them.
    I really do feel your pain. And I want you to know that the minute I saw your picture above, I remembered another picture of you two at a race. Such a handsome boy. Another only child.
    These days, I busy myself in December, with the parts of the holiday that I loved – decorating, wrapping gifts, etc. They are not important things, but they are my distraction. I want you to know that there is another mom in Virginia who is counting down the days till this holiday mess is over.
    I am reading “It’s OK That You’re Not OK” – so good.
    We think of them every day, but they are missed so dearly at this time of year. They will always live in our hearts.

    1. Thank you Tamara, and Gray for sharing. This will be our 4 th Christmas without my son, Curt. I also wish the Holidays away. This year has been especially painful- just worn out. Love to you, Logan, Witt and Curt.

      1. Jan – I remember reading about Curt here recently. Love to you too! I agree on this year – worn out.
        It’s over soon.

    2. I have that issue as well. But my New Years walk will mention him becaus I am going to make it about Charles. I have a mixture of parents who have kids who are doing well and a lot of us have lost a child or have one where it could swing that way at any time. Even when I am intentional, people don’t hear it. Frustrating and hurtful. People think they remember at the memorial they are done with that step and can check it off a list.

      1. Thank God for Anne Moss – good luck on the walk! You go girl!
        I too have a few friends with a child where it could go wrong at any time. But they get it, right? It’s weird how lots of those folks become better friends…empathy goes a very long way.
        What you just said is sadly spot on – they show up to the memorial, or any event, then they check that off and they have been a good friend. They make a donation to his scholarship fund, and they can ignore it. At our memorial gathering last week, I had a few moms who didn’t really know Whitten ask me about him and we looked at pictures and talked about him. My besties said not a word. So frustrating and so hurtful. But I feel like if I keep sending them these hints, they will label me as high maintenance and give up altogether. I would love to give each of them a copy of the “it’s ok” book.
        I am leaving on 1/2/18 for the Caymans with my husband on a business trip to try and forget about the last few months.

      2. PS – I recently had one of the girls in that group tell me, “well, we want you to be ok. so if we don’t ask, then you are ok……..”

    3. Gray, thank you for sharing and I am
      so sorry for your loss. Whitten. What
      a beautiful name. And I can imagine what you have and are going through. I think bereaved parents are the most special of all.

  9. All you wrote is absolutely the truth. I remember before Josh died thinking if I don’t mention their deceased loved one it would be better not to remind them. NOW I KNOW our child (who has passed) is always front and center , and we feel honored to be able to speak of our child … We can now only keep his memory alive . And that is now how we honor our children. My Beautiful Boy , Joshua Giannini
    2/12/79 – 3/29/17

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