We lost Drew 8 years ago (his story here), which seems like both yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once. Out of his amazing and meaningful life have been born many lessons (mostly unwanted but still treasured) and even a non-profit. As parents, we have had to learn how to navigate the tightrope walk of living between joy and tragedy, endure holidays like Christmas without our son, trick or treat with one less costume in the group, find thankfulness and moments of gratitude amidst grief and climb from rock bottom towards joyfulness. This is one New Orleans mom’s grief and healing journey.
One Mother’s Journey to Reclaiming the Christmas Spirit
When it comes to the holidays, each family has traditions as unique as their fingerprints. Décor, menu items, caroling, pajamas, amongst many, many other things are what people look forward to each December. This time of year is the pinnacle of faith, devotion, festivity and just being with those you love.
On the contrary, for some the holidays are an emotional minefield, a “Grief Super Bowl” if you will. These people are grappling with loss due to any number of unforeseen circumstances. The radio blaring “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year” may seem like a taunt, making them want to hide under a blanket until January 2..
I have fallen in both distinct categories in recent years, and I know I am not alone in this. There are many people out there with heavy hearts. Whether it be a marriage that crumbled. A frustrating and arduous battle with infertility. Or the death of someone you love. Many of us are on a journey you never wanted and the holidays amplify the pain.
Christmas used to be my absolute favorite time of year. It was not uncommon for me to pull out an assortment of ridiculous headbands from antlers to elf ears, at a moment’s notice. I counted down the days to a world of red and green splendor. After I got married, my little family started to form our own traditions, our beloved son, Drew, at the core of any “spirited” decisions.
Then in an instant it all changed. After just two Christmas seasons, our sweet and happy son passed away with no warning. The world as I knew it and everything I hoped for the future of my beloved little man was gone. Christmas became a major milestone we reluctantly faced without our son.
Our first Christmas without Drew was pure survival mode. There is no way to really articulate how painful it was. There were so many instances where the score was, GRIEF: 1, BOSWELL FAMILY 0. Along the way, someone told me to embrace my grief and the emotions associated with it. I did this with gusto, and it helped me start to heal because I was not holding things in.
I remember walking in a store and seeing all the Thomas Trains and bursting into tears, ugly tears, depressing the multitude of shoppers around me as I clung to a toy train in the middle of the aisle. I did not care, crying over a plastic train was what I needed to do and I did it.
Also, I live a stone’s throw away from City Park which hosts the amazing Celebration in the Oaks. I went out of my way to avoid the park and drove like a horse with blinders on. The lights and splendor of the park reminded me of yet another thing I would not be doing with my beautiful son that Christmas. That was a coping mechanism and a way to control things I could control.
My husband and I spent that Christmas alone for many reasons, one being I could not bear to watch other kiddos opening Christmas gifts. Together we leaned on our faith and our memories of Drew to give us hope and strength. I was pregnant at the time, which was also a tremendous source of comfort. A gift beyond measure was the friends and family who took the time to reach out to us and let us know they were thinking of us that first lonely Christmas.
As Christmas approaches this year, so much has changed for our family. Drew’s sister, Emmaline, is now here taking the world by storm. She is a pink powerhouse of activity, and although she is always the tiniest one, her big spirit immediately fills a room with joy. Our daughter is fun, dramatic, and so many other wonderful things.
My husband and I are also farther along in our journey without Drew. Grief is ever present, but the intensity has lessened, making it possible to have more good days than bad. We are working to start new traditions. Our family now includes two children we love equally: one on earth, one watching over us from heaven. We are striving to make the holiday season pure magic for Emmaline and also a time remember Drew.
Our reality is different from most families and is filled with immense joy with Emmaline and intense longing for Drew.
Our reality is signing our Christmas card “Devron, Georgia, Roux, Emmaline and Angel Drew.”
Our reality is opening a box of decorations and seeing a beautiful stocking Drew only emptied once.
Our reality is taking Emmaline for pictures with Santa and asking for two photos: one alone and one with an angel doll symbolizing Drew, with me crying like a baby the whole time.
Our reality is that Drew’s life and legacy have impacted more people than many do in a lifetime. Our son was and is such a gift to the world.
Our reality is a faith and marriage stronger than we ever imagined. We treasure every moment with our precious daughter. Even the ones with no sleep and vomit.
Our new reality is beautiful and the future is bright. At one point I did not know if it would ever be possible to say that again. Now, I know it is.
For those of you out there who are hurting, I know how isolating heartache can be. My prayer is that you have moments of peace and allow yourself to feel and heal. I hope your loved ones support and acknowledge your pain. I hope the magic of the holidays fill your spirit again and your new journey is wonderful. What I can tell you is that the things that happen to you may never be ok, but with time you will be ok.
Now, bring on the headbands.
About Georgia Boswell
Georgia Boswell hails from Minden, Louisiana, but she has been proud to call New Orleans home for 11 years. Georgia received an undergraduate degree from Louisiana Tech and acquired a Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Management from UNO. She enjoys reading, traveling and sampling the many treasures New Orleans has to offer. She met Devron during Mardi Gras 2007 and they officially became Team Boswell on May 23, 2009. They were blessed to welcome Drew Joseph Boswell into the world on November 27, 2012. Tragically Drew died in his sleep on March 12, 2014. His death was attributable to SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood). Georgia and Devron, with the tireless support of many friends, started Drew’s Tunes for the two-fold purpose of providing musical instruments to young children and also to support research on the cause and possible prevention of SUDC. Since its inception, Drew’s Tunes has donated over $80,000 in support of its mission. These donations include 650 instruments to local children and $25,000 towards SUDC research. As of April 28, 2015, Emmaline Elizabeth Boswell became the newest member of Team Boswell. Devron and Georgia look forward to telling Emmaline all about her big brother and making the world more beautiful together in his name.