As the holiday season approaches I find myself thinking back to that first year after the death of my dear friend Brian McDonald who, by marrying my sister, became the brother I had always wanted. Brian died by suicide in July of 2007 and as Summer cooled and became Autumn I clearly recall how my anxiety mounted with the approach of Thanksgiving. I found it nearly impossible to imagine the traditions of family gatherings without him, wondered how and if his absence would be marked and decided that I needed to do something that felt right for me, but what?
I was reading everything I could find in books and on the internet at the time about suicide and I took some advice that really helped: We all mark the holidays differently according to our culture and traditions. After the suicide of a loved one give yourself permission to do things that make you feel better and don't feel pressured to do things that won't. Grieving is hard work. It is physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting. As much as possible, don't add to your burden by expecting too much of yourself.
I decided to add a lit candle to the room which would symbolize that Brian lived on in our hearts. His candle sat on the sideboard at Thanksgiving and added its warm glow to our breakfast table as we shared our traditional french toast on Christmas morning. It was one small way of bringing a little comfort into our lives.