This holiday season is bittersweet for my family.
With joy we begin celebrating our daughter's first Christmas and another glorious year spent with our growing boys.
With sorrow we go through the motions of celebrating our first Christmas without my father, their papa, as his early death came this summer, only a week prior to the birth of our fourth and final child.
"It's so hard going through the death of a loved one at any time, but especially during the holidays when it's suppose to be such a lovely time and everyone around you expects you to be normal," said Glenda Parrish, co-author of "Finding Hopes in Times of Grief."
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South Charlotte residents, and high school sweethearts, Glenda Parrish, 56, and her husband Preston, 56, are still coping with the trials of losing their child at age of 25 in early 2006. Only a day after burying Preston's father, they received the phone call that their son Nathan had passed away during a rock climbing accident in California, where he was living at the time.
"Part of the struggle of walking through grief is not only the fear or anger you have, or the questions you have, but it's also that so few people seem to get what you are going through," said Preston.
Everyone accepts grief differently and manages it in their own way. No matter if it's your first holiday without a loved one or your 10th, loneliness, pain or sorrow can overcome the joyous time.
Understanding that there is always hope and that you are not alone is the first step in coping through the holidays, making this time of year special but in a different way than it was before.
"For the first Christmas, actually for the first three Christmases, we didn't do anything the same as before Nathan's death," said Glenda as they celebrated with their other children, Hannah, 36, Gregory, 32, and JesseRuth, 17. "What you knew is not going to be able to be replicated.
"Be patient with yourself and do what is best for you because everyone is going to have an idea of what is best for you but it's your walk, and you must be free to walk it," said Glenda.
In the fall 2009, Preston was approached by his publishing company, having written in the past, to see if he was working on anything. Folks continuously asked Preston if he would be writing about Nathan and the years following, and it was with Glenda that "Finding Hope in Times of Grief was developed."
Published in March 2011, their book gives hope to the process of grieving.
From a passage in their book, Glenda details the shock of finding Nathan's Christmas stocking several years later while decorating the Christmas tree.
"In talking with many others who have lost children and in hearing how things have gone in their lives afterward, I have accepted that these moments will probably happen for the rest of my life," she said.
"Of course, everyone is different, and you will figure out what is best for you. Be affirmed, though, that it isn't dishonoring to approach the seasons a little differently than before. Just do what seems most helpful for you - even if others may not understand."
The Parrishes refer to the past six years as a "walking journey." Their book reflects their personal experience, their faith in God and is filled with encouragement for others.
"Finding Hope in Times of Grief" is sold on Amazon.com or locally at the Billy Graham Library.