The fireplace holds five stockings, but only four people live in my house. 5 years ago we celebrated our son’s first Christmas. I spent the days crafting while he napped as I hoped for and imagined what future years would bring. I could not bear to only make one stocking when I was the mother of two. It felt equally wrong as right to make a stocking for my daughter who had died of year prior, but I sewed two stockings that year; one for Ruthie Lou, the other for Reid.
The dark nights of winter were so long and quiet and empty with only one baby in the house. I spent a lot of time imagining what it would it would be like if she were there still. I wondered what it would be like to mother two living children. My heart broke even more watching my son hit all the milestones that my daughter never would. The juxtaposition was exhausting, the joy of watching him grow and the emptiness of living without my daughter.
We had to make awful decisions that year, decisions that no parent should have to consider:
Do we include her name on holiday cards?
How do we include her in family photos?
How do we honor her during the holidays?
Do I make her a stocking?
What do we do with a stocking that hangs empty?
Each year we’ve had to face the same or similar decisions. We reflect on what we’ve done for Ruthie Lou in year’s past, and typically decide to do the same as we move forward.
We sign her name on holiday card.
We always include something of hers in our family photos.
Her stocking is hung on the mantle next to her brothers.
We adopt a girl the same age she would be to buy Christmas gifts in her memory.
It may not make sense to others, but I feel comfortable with the traditions we’ve created and yet (more than anything) I wish this wasn’t the reality of our life.
As we enter into the deepest part of the holiday season, I think of all the moms who this is their first Christmas without their son or daughter. I want to encourage you to reach out to someone who is grieving. Send a text, pick up the phone, stop by for a quick visit and hug. Show that you will always remember their child and that you are holding them close in your thoughts.
And if you are the one missing your child this holiday season (and every day, really), be gentle with yourself.
Listen to your heart.
Don’t over schedule your time.
Take breaks when you need.
Honor old traditions only if they feel good.
Making new traditions if that feels better.
There is no right and there is no wrong during this year.
Each year is a little less harsh than the one before, but the missing never really gets easier. I wish I had some way to lighten that pain for myself and for others. But the only thing I can offer, is to follow what feels right and not question what others might think because thankfully, they don’t have to face this hardship. But if truth be told, 6 years later I still don’t know what to do with that damn stocking. So, there it hangs with the rest of the family because our daughter will always be the heart of our family.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.