Choosing Joy

I have sat down in front of the computer over and over these past few months to share my thoughts but have struggled to form a complete thought to share. I have felt  overwhelmed, defeated, and so so sad. Any extra energy that I’ve had has been used to complete the tasks of day to day life. Grieving the loss of Derek is taking a toll on me. My heart is broken and I grieve deeply because of the love I continue to feel for my son that is no longer here with me. As I have struggled through the past few months, I have prayed for strength and help to get through this season. As I have prayed, Joy is the word that I keep hearing and seeing everywhere I turn. I believe that God is showing me what I need to continue on this difficult journey.

The first anniversary of Derek’s death, followed by his birthday, Thanksgiving, and now Christmas has brought with them new and more painful feelings. The second round of holidays without him has been much more difficult. This year, my heart and head are more able to acknowledge that Derek really isn’t here.  This time of year should be a time full of joy with all six of the Kennedy clan under one roof  laughing and spending time together as a complete family.

Since Derek has been gone, feeling joyful hasn’t been easy. We miss him so much and he should be here. He should’ve arrived home from college with Allie last Saturday. He would’ve walked through the door with a big smile on his face and his dog Amos right beside him. He would have a bag full of dirty laundry for me to wash. He would be excited to show us all of the new tricks he had taught Amos since our last visit. He would start wrestling matches with his little brother Luke and debate world issues with his sisters Allie and Katie. He would be waking up in the early hours of the morning to go hunting with his Dad. I would sleep peacefully at night knowing all four of my babies were safe at home for the holidays.

Again this year, he didn’t walk through the door with his sister. He won’t be with us as we go to church on Christmas Eve. We won’t hear his contagious laugh as he opens the Christmas gifts that he didn’t ask for…  he never asked for anything. There is an empty chair at our table as we gather as a family. He is not home with us but I believe that he is in our Eternal home waiting for us to join him. Derek now celebrates Christmas like we can’t comprehend. He is with the one we are celebrating, Jesus. He is experiencing JOY unlike anything we can imagine. I want so much to be happy for my son but I miss him and want him here with us.

Christmas is so different for our family without Derek here and finding joy in the season takes effort. I fight back tears as I Christmas shop knowing that he isn’t with us.  Our family is making new memories and starting new traditions without him as we celebrate our Savior’s birth. There is laughter in our home but the absence of Derek’s goofy and contagious laugh is missed so much. The picture in front of our Christmas tree will only have three of our four beautiful children in it but we will take it anyway because we know how important the pictures and memories are. We will tell stories of our past Christmases and wonder what it would be like if Derek were still here.  We cry because we are missing him but cherish our time together. We forgive quicker and love deeper than ever before because we know how precious our time together is. We choose Joy as we celebrate our Savior and the gift that He brought to the world.  Because of Him, we will see Derek again. That brings Joy to my heart while grieving the loss of my son this Christmas.

God, thank you for the gift that you sent to the world, Jesus. Help our family and others that are hurting during this season find peace, hope,and joy in Him. Allow us to be a light for those that are struggling as we celebrate the birth of your son.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13


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