I have survived two holiday seasons now after the loss of my son.
“Survived” was the best and first word that came to my mind when I wrote that last sentence because that is truly the only way I know to describe it now. The feelings of dread always begin with the holiday commercials beginning to air, that always remind me I’m missing someone.
The Things I Miss
Those commercials are meant to pull at your heartstrings and bring home memories of family, tradition, and togetherness. Instead, they remind me of what I’m missing.
I’m missing the sound of an excited little boy who tells me he wants every toy that comes up on T.V.
I’m missing the joyful giggles at the sight of Christmas lights driving down the road.
I’ve missed first Thanksgivings and first Christmases.
I have already missed the tremendous amount of pictures that come with these first moments and all I have are false memories, images created only in my mind, of what could have been.
My Struggle with Gratitude
I see all the posts on Facebook about gratitude and I feel humbled and selfish at the same time. I am grateful for my surviving children and all the joy they bring to my life each and every day. I feel selfish for not seeing that gratitude when I spend my holiday season mourning my angel baby.
For the most part, I keep it together during the holidays for my children and for myself. Other people don’t understand and I don’t expect them to. I don’t want to ruin the season for my daughter, who begins asking about Christmas starting in July.
She still sees the magic in the season and she still feels the pure joy and wonderment it brings to some and I can’t take that from her.
The first Christmas was the hardest and I think it always will be. It’s still hard to push aside thoughts of what toys I would be putting on his list when I’m making my Christmas lists. I don’t know, nor will I ever know, what his favorite Thanksgiving dish is.
These are such small things but they add up to be something much larger.
I feel resentful at times during the Holidays that instead of picking out the coolest toy to buy him, I’m picking out a special arrangement for his headstone. I feel anger when news stories surface alleging of neglect and abuse towards an innocent child. This happens all throughout the year but its especially worse during the holidays.
How I Cope
I wish I could have written a post telling you ways to deal with feelings of apathy or resentment during the holiday season. I wish I could tell you that making lists full of things I’m grateful for has helped me in my journey but if I told you all of those things, I would be lying. I want so badly for my Christmas season to be filled to the brim with tradition, magic, and cheer, but this is just not my reality anymore.
I know I’m not alone in my feelings. This is a hard and uncomfortable topic that no one wants to breach. If we’re not cheerful during the holidays, we’re considered a Grinch or a Scrooge, so we plaster how happy and grateful we are all over Facebook to avoid those confrontations.
I know the answer isn’t to bring others down but maybe just know that it’s okay to not participate. It’s okay to not love Christmas or all of the pageantry associated with the season for your own reasons. It is okay to have your breakdown and cry every so often.
What has helped me the most is acceptance. It is different for me now and it most likely always will be. He was my son and he will always be in the back of mind. I have come to accept that my reality is now very different, yet sadly, very similar to a lot of people’s holiday experience. I don’t feel excited at the first lighting of the tree anymore because I’m wondering if I placed his memorial ornament in the right spot. Thanksgiving only now serves as a reminder of the missing person at the table and the New Year marks another year without my baby.
I have to find some kind of contentment in picking out the arrangement for his vase or else it would just make me angry through and through. I have to remind myself that, while it’s an unconventional gift, I am still giving him a gift and it still counts. It is still my way of expressing my love for him and in that, I can find solitude.
Thankfully, it can be just as easy to get tied up in the events of the season. When you’re buying a gift, try to focus on how much the recipient will enjoy the gift or how you’re giving them a gift out of love. I try to focus on how happy the holiday festivities make my children and by focusing on their joy instead of my pain, it helps redirect my thoughts. I don’t always feel like going to all these holiday events but seeing the light on my children’s faces as they watch the lights twinkle and glow makes it worth my discomfort in the end.
The holidays aren’t easy for me but doing these two things have really improved my experience. I’m never going to be the girl putting her tree up on November 1st and that’s okay, too, because I know I’m not alone.