On being thankful when there’s nothing to be thankful for

The first holdiay season after Mattias died was the hardest. Not just because it was the first without him, but we lost him at the beginning of December.

being thankful when there's nothing to be thankful for

I was still in shock. I remember standing at the checkout at Kohl’s with an ice cream maker we were buying for my daughter for Christmas when the checker asked, “How are you today?” I froze. He had no idea. He was just doing his job. He asked and had no idea how much he did not want to know the answer. But my little auto-play “fine” was broken. I had no answer. I wanted to scream, “My son is dead and I’m buying an ice cream maker!” But it wasn’t his fault, so I just shrugged. “Merry Christmas!” he said cheerfully as he finally handed me my purchase. I took a deep breath. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”

My tone wasn’t so cheerful. In fact, he looked startled. But I meant it, probably more than any other time I had wished somebody a Merry Christmas. I stood at the door, watching the mass of cars out for the holiday rush. The whole world was rushing buy and I hadn’t quite yet accepted that any kind of life went on after my son’s had ended. I wanted to scream at them all, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is utterly meaningless.” Except that all this was because of the birth of another baby. Sure, many of the people rushing about had no knowledge of that baby. Others had lost sight of Him. Some were distracted by the season. And yet . . . it is because of the birth of that baby boy that hope came down. And it is because of His death and resurrection that Mattias’ death on an operating table was not the end of his story.

I am thankful for the time we had with him. I am thankful for our memories. I am thankful that my children still count him when people ask how many brothers and sisters they have. I am thankful for a savior who grieves with us in our sorrows. And most of all, I am thankful that, because of his sacrifice, we have hope because death is not the end.

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you would like to listen more about being thankful through tragedy, Dr. Jay Wile gave an excellent sermon on what we can be truly thankful for. My little Mattias even makes a cameo appearance at the end, so I may be a tiny bit biased.


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27 Comments on "On being thankful when there’s nothing to be thankful for"

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Jeanette Radmall
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This was such a hard post to read. My worst nightmare is losing a child. I will pray for you and appreciate your willingness to share your experience so openly.

Dana
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It is hard. Grief is hard. Dealing with grieving people is hard. But I think we heal best when we are willing to talk about it and we love best when we learn to be around people truly suffering. I decided to be open to connect with other who were grieving and to help other people see a glimpse of what their friends and family may be going through so they can be a support system. One of the most common emails I get is, “I just don’t even know what to say to them.” And that’s OK. It is… Read more »
Natashya Newman
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Oh my goodness, mama! I wish I could give you a hug! Thank you for sharing this bittersweet post, a tender piece of your heart. Your child was dearly loved, and still is.

Dana
Guest

Thank you. I always accept cyberhugs. 🙂

Susan Evans
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My heart breaks for you, and I’ve prayed for you off and on throughout the years.

Dana
Guest

Thank you, Susan. Those prayers mean a lot.

Emily
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What a powerful testimony. Thank you for sharing this and encouraging me with the hope that comes with knowing Jesus.

Dana
Guest

Thank you for your kind words.

Hannah
Guest

Wow, your honesty is beautiful. I can’t fathom the grief that you are experiencing, but I am so grateful for what God is doing in your life. Your testimony truly points all the glory back to Him!

Dana
Guest

It softens with time, but never really fully goes away. I think mostly you learn to cope better.

Melissa
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Thank you for sharing your pain and yet your ability to see God’s love through His Son to give you peace.

Alice Mills
Guest

Thank you for the honest look into your soul. I am so sorry for your loss. Really great post.

Sasha
Guest

Wow. This is beautiful. I’m crying reading it. Friends of mine just recently lost their son. Thank you for the words.

Dana
Guest

I am so sorry for their loss. It is so hard, especially at first.

Kim@Team-Cartwright
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I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing how you are still finding God’s love through the sadness.

Merry
Guest

My heart both aches and rejoices for you, Mama. Our oldest daughter is with Jesus already, and I too, am thankful that my son counts her when naming his siblings. Before our own loss, I never could fathom how a heart could simultaneously mourn so deeply while holding such great joy and hope. Peace to you this Christmas season, mama.

Dana
Guest

I am so sorry for your loss. And yes, it is strange how you can both mourn and be joyful. I think everything deepends.

Anchal
Guest

So sorry for your loss. Im stoned reading this and wondering how you are coping. Wishing you lots of strength and love this thanksgiving

Dana
Guest

It has been seven years, so it isn’t as intense, though the holiday season is rough. Someone is always missing in all the festivities.

Sherry Sievewright
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Beautifully said…. it was after your first post about his passing that I started following you. Someone in our homeschooling group shared the link and asked us to pray. Time
May pass yet the memories last a lifetime. You have been an inspiration and a blessing even though we have never met.
Sending you WI hugs dear sweet sister in Christ. Your blessings are abundant…. so are
Ours for knowing you. God bless you and your family this season.

Dana
Guest

Thank you so much. It is amazing how much support we received from strangers. But in Christ, none of us really are strangers.

Julie
Guest

Praying for your wounded heart! I’m so sorry you had to experience your loss!
Thank you for sharing this real and raw post!

magen
Guest

I could not imagine having to go through such a hard experience.

Alaska Nivanuatu
Guest

I just listened to Dr. Wile’s semon yesterday, and at the end when he mentioned you and your son, I realized “Hey, that’s the amazing lady whose blog I just discovered!” God bless you for your perserverance in teaching and raising your family, for your faith, hope, and love in Jesus, and for being an inspiration to all of us, and many the peace of God continue to rule in your heart (Col 3:15). And have a cyberhug:

(((((Cyberhug)))))

Dana
Guest

Thank you for the cyberhug. They are always appreciated! 🙂 And thank you for such kind words.

Kristi
Guest

I am so, so sorry.

One of my professors lost his 4 year old son a few days before Christmas and not a season goes by that I don’t lift their family up in prayer. It’s been almost 15 years now and I still can clearly picture the funeral.
I will be praying for your family this season as well.

Dana
Guest

They are blessed to have a friend like you. Those prayers do mean a lot, and maybe especially years later when most people have forgotten and there is still a hole in your life.