How do you enjoy the holidays without one of your children? I'm struggling with that question this year. In a new state, without many of the Christmas traditions we enjoyed back East. I think back to the day after Thanksgiving 2013. Jones Family Farm in Shelton, CT. The land carried with it an almost magical air. In October, we had enjoyed their hay ride, corn maze, apple cider, a large pumpkin patch. Beautiful fall leaves overhead. In December, we travelled the 45 minutes to visit their Christmas tree farm on the opposite side of the property. Walking the half mile through acres of Christmas trees towards to "North Pole," where we would cut our own Frasier Fir and haul it back to be baled. It was chilly, and I carried Ben in the Baby Bjorn on my chest. I pointed to the trees, asking him which one he liked the best. He had to learn how it was done, as we had so many years in the future of Christmas tree hunting together. I never questioned that. I leaned down to nuzzle his soft cheeks, which were cold from the wind. He smiled and babbled. He was happy. Afterwards, we walked around the farm, picking out fresh garland, cinnamon pine cones, a wreath, sipping hot chocolate, then driving home to decorate the tree. Together, as a family.
The Christmas with Ben. I could never have known it would be the only one.
I expected my second Christmas without him to be better. The grief does lessen over time, we get back to our typical family activities, smiling and laughing. We look normal on the outside. And, we are in part. We know we need to rebuild, we are too thankful for life and our family not to to that. But, underneath there is a reality that never really goes away. Something from which we cannot just move on. We carry it with us in our hearts, each and every day. The loss of a child.
I was worried it was just me, that I wasn't doing something right. I thought I would just wake up a year later and be better, have moved past it. On Black Friday, when I texted my friend who lost her daughter in 2012, I realized it wasn't just me. I can't expect it to ever go away, it is now part of me. That's what love is.
The holidays can be sad and lonely for those who have lost loved ones. I guess I really want to talk to them...let them know they are not alone. There are many of us out here, feeling the same way - and it's okay. To miss them. To not feel the same carefree joy though the holiday season. But, we hold on to what we have. I allow myself to be carried away by the laughter and innocence of my girls. Decorating our tree, donning their Christmas pajamas, baking cookies, mailing Christmas lists. They don't know what I know yet, and I allow myself to crawl into their bodies if just for an instant. To feel the Christmas joy again.
So, if you know others who have lost loved ones, just understand and give them time. Let them know you are there, and you don't expect them to be normal again, to forget. They will forever be changed. A little bit of love can go a long way during the holiday season.
Happy Holidays Friends and Family, we love and miss you!!