I remember the day well—it was a sunny, cool, fall day. The house was filled with the aroma of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, pies and all the extras we make for the holidays. Our family gathered together from near and far to enjoy this special day.

I was here, but I was not.

I smiled, but I was sad.

I ate the delicious meal, but I was not hungry.

The outside of my body looked as if everything was perfect.

Yet for me, the holidays had changed.

The holidays are different.

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I once loved turning the calendar page to November and all the way through the first of the year. But, now I turn the page with anxiety. It wasn’t until August 23, 2013 that my life changed. It was the night we lost our son Tyler to a car accident. It was the night our family went from five to four. It was the night our holidays changed forever.

I try to make new traditions, have fun, and enjoy the time together with family. Unfortunately, this time of year brings me anxiety. I find it hard to breathe, I prefer alone time more than together time with big groups of people.

I hope it gets better, I want to be happy, I want to celebrate and embrace time spent with our family and friends. I want to feel like I felt before Tyler’s accident. Unfortunately, I am told it will not ever be the same. I am sure that is why my heart is so heavy during this time of the year.

My mind wonders: what would Tyler be doing? What would he look like? I am sure he would be patiently waiting for the food. He loved any meal with turkey and mashed potatoes. Oh, how I miss him!

It is during this time of year I think about everyone else I see going through their crazy, daily life. Are they struggling? Are they missing a child, loved one, or maybe a friend?

Are they just trying to make it through the day, minute by minute?

In the midst of everyday life especially this time of year when I am struggling, I find peace in my quiet time with God. He is the One who redirects me when I am feeling frazzled, sad, and overwhelmed as if I cannot go on. He is the One who reminds me I have a family of four who still loves and needs me. He is the One who reminds me I need to keep going. He is the One who reminds me I may not have Tyler here physically, but he is with me always.

I guess that is why we are told, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

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God is constantly reminding me to stay focused on Him and He will walk me through my journey. I have found, for me, one of the most important things to do is wrap my arms around my now family of four and forget the rest of the world.

Sometimes it is OK to stop all of the going and just be with the ones you love. My favorite thing to do is lie on my daughter’s bed, talking about Tyler and what he would be doing. Those are the times the anxiety goes away. I am able to breathe, smile, laugh and cry. Oh, how I treasure those moments.

I make it a point to always include Tyler in our holidays. I like to talk about him and memories of past holidays or what he would be doing at this exact moment. I think it helps, I hope it helps. I just want to make the holidays easier to navigate for our family without him. It is so hard to know what each of our family members is feeling or going through this time of year. Plus, it reminds me of all the other people who have lost a child, loved one, or friend and are hurting this holiday.

Please remember the holidays are not all sparkly lights, beautiful presents, and holiday cheer for everyone.

Be kind, be helpful, and think of others more than yourself this holiday. It is so important to take the time to be “present” with the person you are with. Ask them how they are doing right now! Because for many, all they can think of is right now and how they are going to get through this moment.

I find joy in giving from the heart with no money involved and not expecting anything in return. It gives me happiness to see the smiling faces of others. I would encourage you to take a step back and think about how you can help someone. How can you make a difference in their life during the holidays? They may not be grieving the loss of a child, but they may be grieving the loss of a job, marriage, or other situation that will cause their holidays not be so cheery.

Missy Hillmer

Missy Hillmer is a writer, photographer, wife, mother, creative lady whose mind is constantly on the go. She loves coffee, dark chocolate especially with nuts, music soothes her soul and being outside in the sun recharges her body. She has an angel in Heaven. Her faith is what gets her through each day. Since her son Tyler’s accident she is passionate about telling her story with the hope that it will help or inspire at least one person who has lost a child.