It's that time of year again. Really, it's always "that time of year". Either I'm anticipating one of the boys' birthdays, just celebrated one of their birthdays or I'm facing another holiday season without watching them search for their Easter baskets, carrying their Halloween bags stuffed with candy bars, setting them a place at our Thanksgiving table or ignoring the two empty stockings on Christmas morning. That's life after loss, right?
This particular time of year is especially hard for me, even though it's been 11 years since Wyatt was born and 3 since Eli was born. It's still hard and I know it will always be. There's just something about Christmas for me.
A few years back I wrote this post about what our family does to celebrate and remember our boys each year. Not much has changed. We still try to find a local group where we can choose a child that would be each boys' age to buy a gift for and we still try to donate toys when possible as well. Even in the deepest snows we trek out to their grave site to clear the snow and stand by their Christmas tree for a moment.
Each year on December 6th at 7pm, our family attends a Candle Lit Remembrance Service where we hang ornaments with our sons' names on them on a special Christmas tree alongside many other little ones' ornaments who are no longer with their families. It is a special time for us to focus just on our boys in the busyness of the holiday season. We also have an Angel of Hope statue which is derived from the Richard Paul Evan's story "The Christmas Box". You can read more about the angel and the story here.
Whatever you do this season and wherever you are in your grief, I encourage you to listen to your heart. If you need a break, take one. If you need to say no, do it. The holidays are stressful and busy enough without the added burden of grief and longing. We find that at Christmastime more than ever we just need time by ourselves. Create traditions that honor your family and your memories. It's okay to break old ones and start new ones. In my opinion, a tradition is only as good as it makes you feel. If it doesn't make you feel good and able to share warmth and happiness with your family, then what is your family going to remember by honoring that tradition?
My husband and I have made some significant changes to how we celebrate Christmas with our children. Over the years, how we view Christmas has changed. What we see and feel has changed and how we celebrate has needed to change as well. Our families may not understand, but it has been important for us to hold true to ourselves and it is an ongoing process each year. The year I was pregnant with Eli we found out about his Potter's not too long before Christmas and I spent many an evening sitting in the dark of our living room with only the light of our twinkling Christmas tree rubbing my belly and sorting through the depths of my emotions. Years later staring at that same tree in the dark as it twinkles the same way it did then is oddly comforting.
May you find something comforting this holiday season and hold fast to it. Blessings.