There’s no getting around it—Christmas is different this year. We’ve gone through some of the motions—put up the Christmas tree and decorations, sent out Christmas cards, and bought the gifts. But, things are different. This year, I’m in survival mode—just trying to make it through the holidays and into 2012. Celebrating isn’t something I’m up for this year.
It’s funny. Everyone says they understand that Christmas won’t be the same this year. But, when I talk about how it’s different, I can see them slowly backing out of the conversation. I guess it’s like I’m infecting other people’s Merry Christmas with my sadness. I realized this at a recent holiday party. Someone asked how I was doing, and I responded with my usual “just trying to survive the holidays this year.” As they nodded at me, the song “Blue Christmas” came on. I commented that this was my theme song this year. And then it happened. First, the pity eyes. Then, the eyes darting around the room looking for any possible exit. Christmas without my daughter is hard enough. But being the sad person in a room full of joy, happy, merry, and bright is a lonely experience.
I can’t listen to Christmas carols, and I’m not watching any holiday movies. In a regular year, my radio would be tuned to the “all Christmas, all the time” station, but I’ve found that each and every song makes me cry this year. For previous Christmases, I’ve parked my behind on my couch to watch Love Actually or The Holiday and wrap presents. This year, I watched House Hunters (generally a Christmas and baby free experience).
This will also be the first year I have not gone to church on Christmas Eve. I have largely worked through my anger with God over what happened. There are still times where I feel I’m being punished for something, but I’m working through that too. I think there will always be a bit of “why me?” that I’ll never understand, and any great cosmic reason for losing my daughter will always escape me. But, my not going to church on Christmas Eve isn’t because I’m angry with God. I just remember the time after losing my Dad when I cried in church every time I went. And those were just regular Sundays. I can’t imagine the sobbing mess I would be if my first journey back to church happened on Christmas Eve. And there I’d go again, letting my sadness invade other people’s happy times.
These old traditions are replaced with new ones. Vivienne’s tree that sits in our living room—soon to be adorned with ornaments given to her by our families. Her stocking hanging over our fireplace that will hold letters that her Dad and I will write to her. Her candle that will travel with us on Christmas, being lit at every celebration so that she is a part of our family Christmas, just as she should be. And her Christmas presents—gifts to charities instead of stuffed animals and toys.
I find myself often saying “this would have been our first Christmas with her.” I always correct myself, and eventually I’ll get it right. This IS our first Christmas with her. Even though she’s not with us, she is everywhere around us. Remembering that is hard to do when the grief is so fresh. That’s all I want for Christmas this year—to feel Vivienne close to us.