Yesterday I read a blog about a girl I know and how her family creates fun Christmas cards every year. I mean…really fun Christmas cards. Her husband is a photographer and is uber talented so can manipulate multiple photo shoots into one magnificent card. Honestly, it was great to see how much fun (or not fun) they have in developing something every year.
While I never went to that extreme for a card nor did I lay awake at night thinking about it I use to put a lot of happy thoughts into my Christmas cards as well.
Until 2014 and life changed.
Now, I’ll be lucky if I get them all out.
Before 2014 if I did get them done I planned them out a bit (not as much as outfits and photo shoots – LOL) just enough to select colors that matched our outfit and the joy of the season, the words to show our family and how we felt at Christmas time. I always hated that people took the words Merry Christmas out of the season and replaced with Happy Holidays so I usually always included MERRY CHRISTMAS in my card.
But, time and events have changed so much now. How I view Christmas without my child. How I feel about holidays, what my card should reflect, how we should remember her – how you approach this magical time of year when you have something so huge in your life missing.
I’ll be honest. I find it hard to say JOY. HAPPINESS. MERRY. Those words don’t come to mind. Maybe that will change but for now…it doesn’t reflect how I feel. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Christ being born and the religious aspect, I just am talking about me personally.
So…if I do a card it is most likely reflecting what’s important to me. PEACE. LOVE. FAMILY. FAITH. And it must include something about her. You see, she is dead but she is not forgotten. She is dead but she is still my child. She is dead but still a very big part of our family. She molded and shaped us all to who we are today.
I know its hard for society to handle grief. I get it, we don’t like sadness for too long. And we want people to “move on.”
I always say to people “what if I never asked how you or YOUR family/child was doing?” What if I pretended they didn’t exist when I saw you? A light bulb usually goes off. That would be offensive. And gosh, I’m not asking for someone to be like “hey, so how’s that grief thing going? That dead kid – you doing better?” BUT..
I know when people ask very meaningful…”How are you?” that they REALLY want to know how we are doing with it all. AND THAT IS APPRECIATED MORE THAN YOU KNOW. Even 2 years later.
ok…back to Christmas. and cards.
When I look for a card the recipient is getting something full of REAL meaning now. Carefully chosen. Words analyzed and read to find something that represents our family this year or at this time. I’ll go to 4 different websites until I find what accurately reflects this holiday essentially without a piece of our family.
And I like to put a saying, a quote or thought that reminds you she is still in our hearts and on our minds. I’ll also put a picture that shows she isn’t here with us but in a gentle, loving way.
I wish I had a crystal ball – I wonder how long I’ll do this. How long I won’t feel “merry” and how long I’ll incorporate something about her in my cards.
And I guess that begs the question of how long the intense feelings of grief will last. I feel like 2 1/2 years seems like an eternity but yet I can remember it like yesterday.
It is something like 11 days and some odd hours until Christmas. I’ll dread that morning once again. Traditions have changed. And change is sometimes hard.
Before 2014, the boys opened their gifts and then after Lydia was done eating we’d bring her in and sit her down and one of us would help her open her gifts. Waiting – we’d watch to see which ones would catch her fancy and she’d start to lick and flick at it. Or if she went back to her normal standbys.
Now, after the boys open their gifts and have jaunted off to play with them, Tom and I sit silently opening Lydia’s stocking. Hopefully, a stocking filled with cards or mementos to help us remember she is thought of and not forgotten.
We cry, we comment on the thoughtfulness, the memories people mention – seems odd to be doing that on Christmas but it is so appreciated we have something for her on this special morning.
None of this is merry or happy but we get through. We make sure the boys know that we still love and appreciate them – we want THEIR happiness to shine through on this special day even though we struggle with ours. We don’t hide it but we don’t sit in it either.
Once our tears are done we focus on the rest of the day. Because the meaning of Christmas is beautiful. And to know my baby girl is healthy, perfect and watching over me in heaven brings a little bit of solace on days like this one without her.
I have a candle I received at a remembrance service 6 months after Lydia passed. I’ll try to remember to light it this year as I host the holiday at my home. Her light still shines so bright in me and in so many of us. She is very much responsible for who I am today. The love, the challenges, the fight, the tears, the screams, the cheers of success- it is all part of a master plan, I know deep down.
I hope you have someone who brings light to your life in this manner. My wish for you this holiday season is simple: may the love of those with you and those that have gone before you be with you always.