Recovering our Broken Hearts after the Holidays

We’ve survived the holidays (if you can call walking around, with a still shocked look on our faces, our broken hearts in our hands, surviving).

Now we need to turn our energy to the hard work of post-holiday recovery.

This holiday was the seventh holiday without my son, who died when he was 20. The last few years I’ve done better getting through the holidays. I’m not sure what happened this year. I was caught off guard and am now suffering the consequences.

When I arrived to my family’s Christmas Eve celebration everyone was downstairs watching old family videos.

I knew exactly what that meant. Videos of my late son when he was young and healthy. A logical inner voice told me not to go watch the videos. They would be too painful.

But, my mother’s heart wanted to see her son, fully understanding that it would reopen all of my old wounds.

Love won out over fear.

Although I knew that seeing my son would be painful, I couldn’t resist.

As I went cautiously downstairs and looked at the screen, I lost my breath and physically placed my hand over my heart, as if that could somehow protect it from some of the pain of seeing Jordan.


My Son, Jordan. My Love.

There on the screen was my adorable, healthy, and ornery, eight year old son on roller skates, doing his best to keep up with his older sister. Every time he fell, he laughed, and with a huge grin, got right back up to try again.

I continued to watch the videos that I hadn’t seen in years with a mixture of extreme pain and love.

I barely held my emotions together for the rest of the family gathering, feeling numb and sad. Unable to be present with my family. Stuck somewhere in the past, with images of my son, and my broken heart.

I made it home with my husband and daughters only to have to escape to solitude in our garage so I could sob out all of my emotions. I cried like I haven’t done in years. The pain seemed so raw again.

When I am caught in the intense emotions of grief, I develop physical symptoms. Two days after my emotional letdown, I feel like I have the flu. Even the soles of my feet hurt when I walk. After almost a decade of dealing with grief, I know that this is part of the process of my body purging itself of these painful emotions.

I will go back to a place of recovery that, thankfully, I have not had to be very often in the last few years.

But, I vividly remember the routine to recover:

  • Rest when your body tells you to rest
  • Avoid the temptation to drown your emotions with food or alcohol
  • Insulate yourself against any further emotional drama during this time
  • Pamper yourself – I soak in a bath full of Epsom salts and lavender
  • Honor your emotions – allow yourself to feel the pain, but don’t let yourself linger there for too long.
  • Do something that will bring you some joy and make you forget your pain for a little while. Read a good book, watch a movie, go for a walk in nature.
  • Know that it’s ok to take baby steps for a few days. Pay attention to the signs your body is sending you.


Along with doing all of these things to help myself recover, I also know my son is still with me and that he doesn’t want me to stay in this pain. This helps me to keep moving forward.

Jordan gave me such a wonderful example of perseverance. When he fell, he always got back up with a smile, and tried again.

So, I will too.

I will get back up, put my broken heart back together, heal my body, and keep moving forward.

We will always love and miss them.

We honor them by getting back up and keeping on.

Sending all of you hugs and encouragement.

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4 thoughts on “Recovering our Broken Hearts after the Holidays

  1. Stephanie Mobley

    So sorry i know how you feel but my son has not past away he was wrongfully taken by cps but not knowing where he is can make me so upset i cry everyday i know is is sad and misses his family i had a daughter that passed away when she was two weeks old and this with my son is much harder everything reminds me of him even to watch tv. Im so sorry for your loss


  2. Patti fusmucker

    So sad to hear of the loss of your son , I too lost my son 4 yrs ago , and the holidays are very hard especially Mother’s Day because he was my firstborn son on May 11th, 1976 so close to Mother’s Day, ( in fact every 11 yrs it seems to fall on his birthdate.) odd as it may seem your story elated to me and made me sad for you to have to see the videos, but did it help you with your grief? My heart goes out to you,please know that you sure not alone ,prayers and thoughts of you are all around ! From one sad mother to another……take small steps…


    1. Rhonda O'Neill

      Thank you for your heart warming words. It has been almost eight years since my son died and I’ve actually done well the last couple of years. Not sure why this Christmas was so much harder. I’ve been writing a book about my grief for the last six months and I think that has made some of the emotions resurface. Some of the videos we watched, were ones I hadn’t seen before, and that is always hard. You’re right, our mother’s hearts will always be sad. Thank you for the prayers. Sending them your way as well. Rhonda


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