A couple weeks ago, a colleague asked me a personal question. Her friend had heard the worst words that a parent ever will hear…that her son had only weeks to live after his cancer returned, and would need to be placed on hospice. She asked if I had any advice since I had been in that same awful situation just three short years ago as we watched our beautiful 5 year old daughter pass away from neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, after relapsing. She wanted to know ways in which she could help but at the same time did not want to be a bother. What they are facing is insurmountable, unthinkable & a parent’s worst nightmare. Everyone reacts differently in these situations…some want to feel supported & have people around to help, and some just want to soak up every last ounce of time alone as a family. It’s such a raw time for everyone.

Here are 5 ways you can support a family facing this grim reality at the holidays.

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This morning I woke up early, missing you… and I came downstairs, made a cup of coffee, turned on all the beautiful twinkling lights on our Christmas trees, and looked at the 5 stockings hung on our fireplace mantel. There’s a unicorn for your little sister, who is now the same age as you were when you left this Earth, a choo choo train for the little brother you never got to meet, and a gorgeous angel with white wings and a tutu (of course!) for you, sweet girl. Your stocking will be filled this year, just like it has been the last two years, with your favorite things… princesses and My Little Pony, glitter, a green mermaid, and other little odds and ends that we know you would love to find tucked inside. But you won’t be here to open it. Last year your little sister excitedly opened all the gifts for you, while your daddy hid back the tears, and I cried openly. I know this year will most likely be a repeat of the same.

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