Hope in the Holidays

Hope in the Holidays

I feel like this year, entering the holiday season is something I look forward to.  I guess I don’t wonder if we will make it through.  It has been a very trying year, and I look forward to being with family, friends and having some sort of sense of normal in the traditions.  Last year everything was a first… every tradition was like walking on eggshells to know if it would be something I would be excruciating or if I would be sick trying to get through it… last year everything was a first.  It was a challenge to find a balance between bringing the girls joy and not hurting ourselves in the process.  I am excited to have our tree up and to bring some light into my living room… I am looking forward to having a little gathering for kids to celebrate Madeline and remind them to bring her with them… I am thinking hard about new traditions to start with the girls and gifts that I know they would love and use.  I am trying to find a ways to keep Madeline in our day… knowing that there will not be 3 girls, a mini dachshund, a mom and a dad sitting in my living room sharing our morning opening special gifts and playing…

My thoughts and reflections on last year’s holiday season have given me some perspective and knowledge that I didn’t have before that.  I know that it is best to do what we felt best, so for any other families facing this season without their lovely know that you can do anything that feels remotely ok.  It can be planned, unplanned, it can be as far away from normal as possible… do anything to make yourself move and be alive.

We created a tradition that shares Madeline with the ones who love her was important for us.  I bought hot cocoa and munchkins and invited her friends and our amazing people to her spot.  I asked that they each brought an ornament that reminded them of her… either as a family or each child.  It was as happy as that moment could be… I never want those children to associate Madeline with hard, sad and scary.  I will always work to remind them how amazing, kind and lovely she was.  I know she would want that.  That tree was happy and bright and full of thoughtful ornaments… cowgirl boots, ballerinas, homemade ones, stars, angels… it was the best thing for us.  Those amazing little children stood together and sang Christmas songs for Madeline.  For us this tradition is just right and very important.

Our Christmas day was hard.  It was hard for all of us.  It was one of the most surreal and strange days.  I felt like I was going through motions.  The girls enjoyed their gifts and at the very end they gave Matthew his traditional new “Super Hero” Underwear and from that moment he was sick all day.  I went through the making dinner motions, moved through the rest of the day… but it was very hard.  I think a good thing to think about is an “escape” button.  Going forward I know that if a day like that turns so hard… we will plan to just ‘escape’.  So maybe allowing an ‘escape’ button in the day can help.  These days are so hard because they are days that you have clear moments and memories of being together.  Our lovelies are so missing that day… it isn’t that they are missing less other days… but we can almost have an illusion of them being there.

This year I look forward to getting our tree… I will take our treasured photo that has become famous of Matthew carrying the tree over his shoulder (walking away) holding Madeline’s hand, while Madeline holds Amelia’s hand and Amelia holds Lucy’s.  It’s a favorite for me… I will take that picture, but I will put it away for someday.  I often let people take family pictures of us, but also put them away for someday.  I don’t like to see our family, not a whole family.  So I still allow those shots to be taken, gladly, I know someday I will want to see us at that moment together, just not today.

In this I am learning when the old normal is the right thing or when a new normal is needed.  I will listen to my gut and girls about traditions and what is right and wrong.  Overall, though, I am looking forward to this holiday season.  I am not looking to just jump into January… so that, to me, is some sort of progress.

I feel like letting people know that is ok to do whatever is good for you… I realized today, as I was making cookies, that I didn’t bake last year.  It might not have been good for me to do then, but I enjoyed it now.  So maybe not making your lovelies best most favorite dessert… or maybe making it will bring a warm thought.  I bring Madeline into everything, her stocking will forever be hung with the girls.  I always wanted new cute matching stockings… planned to make them every year.  Alas, I am sure that for forever I will put up our cheap green and red Walmart specials that I put our names on.  I will never part with that.  I did take Amelia shopping last year to choose an angel.  I wanted one the look like Madeline and for it to be a special choice that Amelia made for our tree.  Whatever the tradition, favorite food, stocking… or event follow your heart and who cares what people think or hope or expect.

Enjoy your Holidays… enjoy your families… enjoy all the lovely and amazing blessings we are all gifted… remember to live, breathe, eat too much, laugh lots, cry some… and make this season what you need to get through to January… who knows maybe there will be a smile or laugh or happy moment.

Erin is wife to Matthew, mom to three lovely ladies- one of which just happens to be an angel, a real true angel.  Her daughter, Madeline, became an angel in February 2012 just 5 days after being diagnosed with DIPG, a rare inoperable brainstem tumor.  Most days she chases her lovely ladies, Amelia and Lucy, around as they grow, play and learn.  She loves running, being with family and friends and writing.

Her family has worked hard to create Maddie’s Mark Foundation to honor her lovely Maddie and to help other families faced with challenging illnesses.  In all of this Erin became the President of Maddie’s Mark and makes it her mission to share Maddie and her spirit forever.  The foundation has helped her family start to heal, meet families they needed to meet in this journey and remind the world to enjoy a life of ‘best days ever’.

Erin loves to write. She finds much therapy in writing her thoughts and sharing what she has learned.  She used to pride herself in knowing much about life and mothering… but feels that life and living and mothering have changed- that she has a bigger grasp on understanding life and living and parenting on her new journey accompanied with grief.

Read more of Erin’s story here: Living Without: Loss of a Child, How to Help When a Family Has a Loss, and September – Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.



  1. 1

    I do love your writing voice and hear you speaking to me as I read your story. I keep reminding others and myself that it’s important to honor what gets you through a day and that may be very different for each member of the family. We still put Nick’s stocking up and I put treats in it for guests who come to the house.

    What hit me the most was photos of the family. I have not sent a Christmas card out since Nick died and I was always one of the first to do so. I can’t send out a photo with the three of us. I have had pictures taken of us, but there’s such a gap and it is very painful. I don’t know if I will ever be able to take a ‘family’ picture ever again. Maybe I’ll have Nick’s photo in it too, but I don’t give myself a hard time about it.

    Keep writing as it heals and helps others.

  2. 2
    Sherri Lewis says:

    This touched me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I have been going through the motions, and just trying not to get too depressed, or at least to let it show. Thank you for this…. when I get through crying I will have to sit down and make a list of ways we can honor and remember the one I have been grieving over.

  3. 3

    Beautiful!! Keep going Erin with writing and being a mother and sending your message and keeping Maddie’s memory alive!


  1. […] Read Erin’s other articles: Where Did My Life Go?  Living After Loss How to Help When a Family Has a Loss Pediatric Cancer Awareness Hope in the Holidays […]

  2. […] Read more of Erin’s story: Living Without: Loss of a Child Where Did My Life Go?  Living After a Loss How to Help When a Family Has a Loss Hope in the Holidays […]

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