Coping with grief during season of joy

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Jaclyn and Chris Cazier don't hide how tough this holiday season is.

"Christmas is difficult, especially with Blake's birthday being December 23rd," Chris said.

Blake is their two-year-old son, who ended his fight with leukemia in March.

"It started in November, Thanksgiving, and being thankful," Jacklyn said. "(It) was very hard to approach that, but we try to put a smile on our face."

Smile, while still allowing themselves to grieve.

Headed into this season of celebrations, they have set limits.

"We have family events coming up and we tell them we may make it, we may not," Chris said.

Jaclyn says she also found a helpful support group, and she finds comfort in her faith. They also invite people to share memories.

"A lot of people don't know if they should (talk about Blake), and I think the worst thing you can do is completely ignore it because we don't have our loved ones forgotten," Jaclyn said.

Stormont Vail spiritual care director Rev. Tom Baker says their strategies are healthy.

"Grieving is perfectly natural," he said. "I love this expression of, 'If we didn't love, we wouldn't grieve.'"

Baker said support groups also can help people cope, and, if you know someone who's suffered a loss, be there for them.

"We can't take away all the pain, unfortunately," he said. "But I think if someone is there, willing to stand with us in that moment and just hear us out, it does a lot; or even just say to them, 'Gosh, I know you're still missing your loved one,' and mention them by name, is a great comfort for a lot of people."

Baker says the holidays can bring pressure to pretend everything is okay, when in reality the loss of a loved one is a big change. Acknowledge it, and make a plan.

"It's okay to say no to certain parties. It's okay to stop a family tradition for one year or maybe start a new one," Baker said.

It's an approach Jaclyn, Chris, and Blake's three siblings are taking to heart.

"We have Blake's stocking still up. We're going to put something in it for Blake and take it to his grave," Jaclyn said. "We're still going to celebrate Christmas and Blake's still going to be part of our Christmas every year."

Only now, he is their angel, watching over them from above.

"He's gone here on earth, but he's not gone," Chris said. "He's in all of our hearts and he'll never be gone completely."