A Child's View: The Holiday Present Nobody Wants

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BY: Mindy Stewart, LPC

​Have you ever been so excited to open up your beautifully wrapped holiday presents that you beg and beg your parents to let you open up one gift before you normally would? You only ask for one because you know the answer will be “no” to any more than that. You do everything you can to convince your parents to allow you to at least have a peek, shake it or size it up to the items on your wish list. Nonetheless, all your hard-fought efforts fall short and you are destined to wait until your family’s holiday gift exchange occurs.

The day has arrived! You finally have that present you’ve been begging for, sitting on your lap. The anticipation is mounting and you can hardly stand another minute of patience. As soon as you’re given permission to unwrap the gift, you rip off the ribbon, tear into the paper, flip open the box, and stare at it. This thing—it isn’t what you hoped for. It’s not only the wrong color or size, but it was never on any wish list or advertised on any commercial. You can’t believe it—you just opened grief!?


Everyone who opens their own box of
grief is able to understand, if even just a little bit, what others have experienced. There is a shared humanity in knowing we all grieve and can find gifts in our grief.


What in the world are you supposed to do with this? You start to think: “Am I supposed to say ‘thank you’ to someone? Is it something I wear? Do I play with it? Can it do my chores for me? Maybe I’ll just give it to my sibling, or re-gift it next year? Perhaps I opened the wrong box?…” Questions and thoughts continue to swirl in your head, and you realize others have opened similar packages. They don’t look exactly the same, the colors and size are different, but there’s something similar between all of them. The feelings of confusion, frustration, disappointment, sadness or anger are all things you notice and identify with when you see someone else open their grief. The only thing you can really say is “I’m sorry,” or listen to them as they experience their own range of emotions. It’s definitely not a present anyone wants, but there’s something about it that actually is a gift.

Grief can be a gift when it:

  • Allows you to empathize with others who have experienced loss in their life.
  • Increases your compassion toward others.
  • Helps you remember what your loved one meant to you.
  • Reminds you that you are not alone – others have loss in their life too.
  • Keeps you focused on the value of the present moment.

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