It’s been a while since I’ve written. Over the past few months, I’ve had a few different blog posts floating around in my head, but I never took the time to sit down and write them. This one, I knew I had to get out. I waited until Christmas was largely over – partly because I needed to see how this latest Christmas would play out, and partly because I knew that people wouldn’t want to read my sad thoughts when there is so much merry to be had. It’s the extra dose of grief that parents missing a child get to carry at the holidays.
I come into every holiday season with a healthy dose of apprehension. I never know what the holidays will be like. Will this be the year when I can find some joy in Christmas again? Or will it be weeks of survival mode, trying to survive and make it to January?
Our first Christmas without Vivienne was incredibly painful. She was supposed to be born on December 22nd, and so the holidays came with a fresh round of loss for us. I wanted no part of Christmas that year, and I spent most of it in tears trying to figure out how I was even supposed to go on living.
Our second Christmas, I tried. I did the decorations, I went back to church, back to the holiday parties, and I tried to find the Christmas spirit. We developed our new traditions – putting the ornaments on Vivienne’s tree, picking out toys to donate in her memory, lighting a candle for her at the Christmas dinners. There were fragments of joy, but it was still a sad holiday season.
This year, I tried again. I did the decorations, I went to church and the holiday parties, did our Vivienne traditions, and even watched a holiday movie or 2. And at every step, her absence stood right beside me, never failing to make me recognize who was missing. Her absence was a presence throughout the Christmas season.
As we decorated the tree, I stood there and looked at it, knowing that there should be a 2 year old beside us helping to hang the ornaments.
As we went to pick out toys for Toys for Tots, I wondered what types of toys she would like and had to acknowledge that I would never get to buy her one.
As I looked at Facebook each day, I was reminded that we’d never hear her Christmas list, get a picture of her screaming on Santa’s lap, or hear any “out of the mouths of babes” funny quotes from her.
As my husband baked the Christmas cookies, I saw the absence of little hands ready to decorate the sugar cookies and “help” make the cookies.
As I sat in church on Christmas Eve, I watched children run up for the children’s sermon. Seeing all of the little girls in their special Christmas dresses just reminded me that I’d never pick out a special outfit for Vivienne, dress her up, and take her to church on Christmas Eve.
And as I watched my family open their presents on Christmas morning, I wondered whether this is the year she’d be into Christmas. Would she have a Christmas list, understand Santa, and get really excited about her presents? We’ll never know.
This is my reality. This is my Christmas. For each year that we celebrate, there will be a baby who doesn’t turn a year older. She will never sit on Santa’s lap. She will never decorate the tree, and she will never open a present. Each year, I will recognize that my family will always be incomplete. This year, we miss having our 2 year old. Next year, we'll miss our 3 year old. And so it will go year after year.
I’m guessing that each year, I will find a little more joy in Christmas. But each year will also contain countless reminders of who is missing the whole way through. I recently read something that called it the “undercurrent of sadness” which feels about right. We may be smiling, celebrating, and singing “Joy to the world!” but there is an undercurrent of sadness to all of it. An incomplete family. A full season of thinking about what could be this year, but isn’t.