We put up our tree early this year, and I’ve been sitting by it every evening lately, enjoying the soft glow of the white lights. I’ve always loved Christmas; that feeling of excitement in the air, the anticipation of a new year, the sense of togetherness with our friends and family. But now there is a bittersweet undertone for me, as there is to all things. My heart always asks quietly, “what if?”
Two years ago at this time, I was recovering from a miscarriage only months after losing our baby girl. I hated Christmas. I hated every happy, smug face. Every song. Every light. I cried at the Christmas Eve service, the only black-hearted congregation member, I am sure. I don’t know if I have ever been so angry in my life, not before or since. I didn’t want to decorate or even celebrate that year, but we had family coming to town and perhaps Danny thought it might do me good to dig out all my favourite ornaments. I eventually gave in, and I raged inwardly at that stupid tree and the holiday that should have been Haven’s first.
I plastered on my game face, the one that said I was coping. Most people didn’t even know we’d been pregnant a second time, that tragedy had struck again so soon. But I smiled and faked my way to the new year, eating and drinking myself to distraction. Was it a healthy strategy? Definitely not, and I wouldn’t recommend it, but January came and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Last year, I still felt at odds with Christmas, though I had some measure of hope kicking away in my belly. “Maybe,” I thought. “Maybe this baby will live.” I was still far too afraid to speak of when our son would come home. It was always if. Moving on New Year’s Day meant no tree and no decorating, so I wasn’t left much time to try and sort out my feelings. 2016 came and we took off running (I don’t think we have slowed down yet).
Hope has come to rest in our home again, settling into the cracks. Even though I struggle with anxiety and fear where Nahum is concerned, I think about him growing up without feeling too nervous. This Christmas, I decorated my tree, smiling at Haven’s ornaments and stocking as I hung them. We took pictures of Nahum “hanging” his first ornament (read: attempting to eat it while Daddy held it). My heart has come closer to sorting out all the pieces that grief left me. Next year, we’ll fill Haven’s stocking with gifts for the less fortunate, and we’ll start new traditions with Nahum. We love our kids equally, and I’m starting to see how there can be space for them both, though parenting them is so different.
I’d like to know, how do you incorporate your lost loved one(s) in Christmas (or other holiday) celebrations? Do you have any special traditions that involve them?