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Losing a Child: Always Andy's Mom

As a pediatrician, married mom of three biological children and one foster son, my life was busy, rushing off to my office four days a week, seeing patients for three and working as a medical director of a local physician organization for one. I balanced this with rushing off to shuttle my kids to after sports and other after school activities. All of this changed one day in August of 2018 when my 14 year old son, Andy, was killed in a car accident. I felt like my life was over, and in some ways it was over, and a new life was forced to begin in its place. 

Grief is seldom discussed openly in our culture, and the death of a child makes people feel even more uncomfortable. On this blog and podcast, ‘Losing a Child: Always Andy’s Mom’, the topic is approached openly and honestly, speaking to people who have lost loved ones and experts who help care for them. Whether you are a parent experiencing loss or someone who wants to support another going through this tragedy, this blog and podcast strives to offer hope and help.

Nov 23, 2023

‘What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year?’
This is a question that I have been asked dozens, if not a couple hundred times over the past month. They want to know if we are traveling. They want to know if we are hosting for Thanksgiving. They want to tell me their Thanksgiving plans. It is simply polite conversation during the month of November. 
What’s interesting for me is that no one in my life has thought to ask me, “How are you doing this Thanksgiving?” No one has asked how we might be honoring Andy. No one seems to have thought at all about the empty seat at our table and the fact that Thanksgiving might, in fact, still be a hard day for us, even five years after Andy’s death. 
Certainly, no one is trying to be insensitive at all. I just don’t think it dawns on them, but, the fact is, Thanksgiving is still hard when you are in the midst of grief. Looking at that empty chair today will bring moments of sadness. 
This week’s podcast is a discussion of what it feels like to gather and give thanks during grief. We asked for insights from listeners and we got them! We got true honest answers about feeling thankful and NOT feeling thankful. We got answers about what we might be dreading as well as who we are turning to in order to help us get through this day and others like it. 
So what is the answer to that unasked question? ‘How am I this Thanksgiving?’ The answer - I don’t know yet. Will I be 99% grateful and happy today or will I be 99% miserable? Probably the answer will lie somewhere in the middle. Honestly, the less the miserable aspect is acknowledged, the more miserable I am likely to be. 
So where does this leave us as we go through this Thanksgiving Day and the next month of the Christmas season? These are answers I know. 
1. Acknowledge that it can be hard, but enjoy the moments that bring joy whether 1% or 99%.
2. Acknowledge the empty seat at the table while trying to appreciate the chairs that are full.
3.Allow yourself to feel the whole spectrum of emotions, because only then can healing begin.