Life After Loss – Christmastime Heartache

It’s been a while since I shared anything on here regarding my own life after loss. Over the last few months I haven’t really felt a need to write anything as I have found that life has been ticking along quite nicely and I have felt more balanced than I have done in a long time. In some ways I suppose I have wanted to say just that and let people know there is hope and brighter days ahead following the death of a baby, but at the same time I guess I didn’t want that pressure looming over people as I know all too well how it feels to compare grief to how others seem to cope! I also didn’t want to say that It has actually been refreshing to feel this way, and nice to not awake to the burden of fog that grief for so long plagued me  – but it has been that way and it has been nice to enjoy life and the build up to Christmas this year, instead of the anxieties I have faced previously.

One thing I did say too was that I didn’t feel a need to any longer write about my own loss, but lets make an exception today shall we (and possibly on other key occasions too), because whilst it’s the most “normal” I have ever felt since losing poppy 4 years ago, as we now approach Christmas, my new found excitement for the season has become increasingly more difficult to balance around my loss and heartache (that I was initially unaware of). I have noticed the fogs creeping in here and there again and its been in a word – frustrating.

Once again the closer we get to the big day, I am increasingly more aware of our missing piece and the familiar feelings of loss at Christmas time. I don’t wish to be so melancholy at a time that brings such joy, but that is simply how it is. The sparkly lights, magic, anticipation and time as a family are all wonderful for most, but the heartache of loss is also very real at Christmastime and its weight brings increasing stress and delicate feelings to those celebrating another Christmas without their child/loved one. And it’s only right I feel that that should also be acknowledged too.

The stockings are hung, the tree is decorated, the gifts are wrapped and our plans are made. The kids are on the countdown to the Christmas holiday’s and as we are only a week away from Christmas day now, everything is on course for a wonderful Christmas. We have all been super excited this year and a little bit giddy for the last few weeks – it has been so lovely! And yet, here in the silence of an afternoon with the kids at school and a toddler asleep, I cannot help but be aware that we are missing something – or rather someone.

Christmas I realise, however special we make it and however much effort we make to be a normal family, we never can be. I am seeing that Christmastime, like other things in life, can never go back to how they used to be before she died. We have lost several significant people over the last few years and however much time passes and however excited we feel, it will always in some ways be a trigger and reminder to feeling the absence of our dear Poppy Quinn (as well as Nathan’s dad and our grandfathers).

Its hard to know sometimes how to approach it all. I so very much want Christmas to feel how it once did, but I know that that is unrealistic – I know and have experienced too much for that to happen. I realise that all I can do now, on this side of loss is to continue to embrace and make the most of the moments where peace abounds and we are having fun together, and continue to rest and reflect – riding the waves when the storms flood and peace seems far away. I am learning to accept that Christmas is not just hard at times because we have a child missing, but because it is a huge reminder of our Saviours birth and life, and without that we would have no hope in all of this. And so I am always a little more sensitive as we sing the hymns and reflect on the birth of Christ, as my faith in Him brings me hope and joy as well as incredible humility at what is made possible. I suppose there are also the moments I still hold a little anger about it all and a little jealousy he has my child and I do not, which is often hard to wrap my head around.

I recognise that for many reading this, that this will sound like complete madness, but for me it has been the hope I have needed to keep sane. I feel that both the NLP therapy I did this last Summer and this faith I have in the Christmas Story/A saviour have helped me immensely to feel peace and balance this year. I have as a result 4 years on being able to confidently approach these last few weeks with the old familiar joys that come at Christmastime. I have been less aware of any heartache and more sensitive to the joys that come from Christmas music and dancing around the kitchen… the joy of spreading christmas cheer and creating magic for the kids. I have thoroughly loved shopping for the family and finding ways to bring the spirit of Christmas time to others. But then came another tradition and one I thought this year would be somewhat a little easier too, but it instead it caught me completely off guard and once again left me feeling the weight of losing a child and the Christmas heartache of life after loss.

Last week we visited her grave to decorate it for Christmas. It was the first time we have been since her 4th birthday and it was not an easy experience. Visiting your child’s grave is hard at the best times, but always a little more raw on Birthdays and Christmases! I had the usual struggle as I agonised over which tree decoration we would buy for our tree at home (I settled on a photo heart with a picture of her hand in) and the same gut wrenching pain struck me as I contemplated which floral arrangement would look the nicest – all whilst telling myself how utterly unfair it is to face a 4th Christmas doing this. I hate these feelings and decisions of grave arrangements and memory ornaments over toys and stocking fillers, and yet I would never not do it either. You may be reading this and thinking “so don’t put yourself through it”, but that is the difficulty of having a child in heaven and grave here  – it is our daughter and the only thing we CAN do for her. All we can do to feel like a parent is  is to tend her little plot, share our love on earth through memory ideas and work to keep her memory alive.

I often think too in these moments that when you have never had a Christmas with your child, I suppose you really have nothing to miss or compare do you? because the reality is you have never actually experienced that. And yet, here I am each Christmas time feel sadness and feeling the weight of empty arms for one of my kids. The Poppy shaped hole feels a little more vast and  I miss buying gifts and knowing what her pile of gifts would include. I miss 4 little smiths on christmas pictures and I miss having the chance to know the dynamics of a family of 6.

I am trying to let go of the guilt of feeling this though and not being able to do more for others because I feel more delicate and need to focus on self care and my own family. I have done some things, but not as much as I hoped to. I am also trying to remember that we have to be gentle and kind to ourselves in these moments and its okay to not be okay every moment of the Christmas season, following the loss of a baby, child or family member. We cannot do it all at the best of times, so don’t try to at the sensitive times.

Feeling the pain of loss again can often feel like a failure – like you have taken so many steps forward in your journey and then are suddenly flung backwards. I recognise this year though that the difference is I do not feel sadness about christmas day without her, I feel sad about christmas time without her. I have heartache around Christmas Time because I miss having her with us for special occasions. I also recognise that is completely normal to feel sad and miss loved ones lost too soon on occasions like this.

I know it will not always feel this way, but then again maybe it will. Either way I have fallen back in love with Christmas this year and and for that I am so incredibly grateful to be feeling that right now. I am grateful for what Christmas  truly means – the joys of the season, especially with little ones is so magical and special and I love being with family and staying up late playing and eating copious amounts of chocolate and treats.. I love the lights, the food, the singing and the gifts and I am more aware than ever of my gratitude for Christ’s birth and the true meaning of this season (without which Christmases without our little girl would be unbearable).

Christmas brings heartache this is true, but if like me you are feeling moments of that and the fog of grief just take it easy and make the most of the moments that are peaceful, filled with light and love, and appreciate the reminders of Christmases before and Christmas moments to come.

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