The Empty Seat at The Table

Nov 16, 2020 | Survivor Voices

By Monique Vallery

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

As the holidays approach, the heavy feeling sinks in even more. The challenge of how to put on a happy face and try and celebrate when all you want to do is curl up and hide from the world.

Survivors carry the pain and grief of losing our loved ones on a daily basis, but the pain is even heavier around special occasions and holidays. This is because on the most “special” days, once again, our loved ones are not here, and there is an empty seat at the table.

Over the past few years since losing our beloved Sheyla Velarde, my family has struggled. We have not only struggled to find forgiveness, but we have tried incredibly hard to stop carrying the burden of anger because the grief is heavy enough.

I can’t say that it has gotten any easier, but we keep trying each day to move out of the darkness and find the light no matter how dim it may shine.

My family has had so many wonderful things happen over the past few years, but there is still a piece missing, and that missing piece of our puzzle and our hearts is Sheyla.

So often, I find the anger creeps back in because she isn’t here to share in all the everyday special moments; seeing her “selfies”, having her here for family pictures, the birthdays, school graduations, weddings, engagements, mariachi performances, soccer games, dance recitals, family dinners, and of course the holidays. They all include the same thing, Sheyla’s empty chair.

Someone made a choice that took an outgoing, vibrant, talented, and beautiful soul from our family and friends. As much as we want to hide away, I know she would like us to pull ourselves together and live our best lives. Those who we have lost would want us to get up, count our blessings, be kind to one another and smile again.

As survivors, we are a part of a community that none of us would ever wish to be included in, because to be a survivor, we had to have lost someone we love; but as a survivor, we can take control of our emotions and fight to make it through each and every day.

What better way to honor and remember our loved ones during the holidays than to make their favorite foods, share our favorite stories about them, and live our lives in a way that would make them proud.  We can embrace the tears and sadness and pull ourselves up and remind each other to celebrate and honor them.

As we look at the empty chair at our tables, we need to remember the chair may be empty, but our hearts are filled with love for the ones we are missing.

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