It's that time of year. The Happiest time of year. Except that it isn't. At least, not for everybody. Especially not for grieving families.
This year does not feel nearly as hard as last year, our first Christmas after losing Calvin. This year we have a beautiful five-month-old daughter to focus on and distract us. We are lucky. But even though I know our family is exactly how it is supposed to be, I can't help but also know there is someone missing. I can't help but think about how there is a little boy who won't be in any of our Christmas pictures. Again. Or ever.
Holiday cards in general poke vigorously at my wounds. Especially last year (although this year I'm surprised how some of my pain has resurfaced). It perhaps seems hypocritical, because our family did end up sending out a holiday card last year, except that had it been up to me we wouldn't have.
Last year, sending out a card with our smiling family felt like a lie. It felt like I was dishonoring Calvin or trying to pretend he didn't exist. And while I couldn't stand the thought of sending out Christmas cards, to my husband it was very important. I viewed it as part of his grieving and healing process, which is why I allowed him to do them himself. Even though I couldn't do it for fear of ignoring our loss, I know that by sending them my husband was not doing anything wrong. He was not forgetting about or dishonoring our son in any way. But I still could not take part in it.
Still, I was surprised by just how few people acknowledged our loss that first Christmas. Of course, there was a wonderful outpouring of love right after we lost Calvin. And I know that God has reserved a special place in purgatory for me to finish out those Thank You notes I never wrote after receiving so much love and kindness after Calvin's death. I am so thankful for all those people, yet I was still taken aback by how little support was offered to us during the holidays.
I promise this is not a guilt trip. My intention is not to hurt anyone. It's just that the holidays can be so hard. They can be incredibly difficult, especially for us parents who are thrust into a season of happiness and joy when we're feeling anything but those things. And we need to know that we're not forgotten. That our babies are not forgotten.
Here's the thing. I don't expect you to sit with me in the depths of despair. I don't expect you to spend your holiday season in the sad, foggy state of a bereaved parent. I don't expect you to stop smiling or laughing or living. But would it be too much to jot a little note acknowledging someone's loss? Would it be so hard to let someone know that you remember that for her this season might not be so happy?
Please, if you know someone grieving this holiday, find a way to let her know she's not alone. Write a quick note on the back of the Christmas card, send her a short email, or even text a couple of lines. Just let her know that you're remembering her child. I promise you, your effort will not go unnoticed. In fact, it will be very much appreciated.
Although sending out holiday cards was happier for us this year, they are still a little place of soreness for me. Which, because it was a more joyful experience, surprised me that much more that my wounds reopened. Yes, this year our holidays are not nearly as difficult as last year, but there are still some difficulties. Different difficulties. Unexpected difficulties.
Maybe holiday cards will always be a little bit painful for me. Or maybe after a few years they won't. I imagine it's just like anything else in grief, just when you think you're getting the hang of it, something new comes along or something old resurfaces.
Some days the holidays will feeling like the hap, hap, happiest time of year, and other days they really won't. And that's okay. I will hold my family close, and dream of visions of a little boy, wrapping his arms around us all.