We had our PreThanksgiving tonight, our family tradition of thanksgiving held early so that we can all be together without the stress of running from house to house visiting in-laws. It has been a successful tradition, a day to gather and relax, eat delicious food and enjoy each other's company. I had a wonderful time, watching Reid play with his cousins, spending rare time conversing with my siblings, laughing amidst the chaos. As a family, we have come a long way in grief and for that I am so grateful. The holidays are feeling *somewhat* lighter and a *bit* more enjoyable the fourth year around. I have come so far in the last three years and so has my family.
That said, the holidays are so hard, they really are. Anxiety tightens in my chest when the conversation turns to family traditions, obligations, and gatherings. I have a GOOD family; they are loving, they are caring, they are the best that they can be and yet it isn't enough. Not because THEY are not enough or because they are not GOOD enough, but because not only will they never understand what our daily life is like and how the holidays compound this grief, but also because they cannot give us the one thing that we will ever need, our daughter.
During Pre-Thanksgiving tonight, I stood outside the dining room as the shuffle of plates being served and the gravy being poured. I listened to the chaos. It was a room filled with beautiful noise, children squealing and adults laughing. It was the sound of the holidays and family and food and love. The sound filled the air and it was so lovely and all I could feel was emptiness,sadness, out of place and disconnect-like I didn't belong. I was not part of that joy, I was there but not, my mind was thrown into what was missing in that room. My daughter's picture lovingly sat with a candle lit amongst the others who have passed away; great-grandparents, grandparents, a mother much too young and then there sat my baby, one who will never grow up. I am so grateful for her to be honored, to be "present" in the room it is exactly what I want but it pains my heart that she is included with those who had great long lives. My daughter's lifetime was only 33 days….that is not what I wanted.
I know the way to avoid these feelings is to stay present and in gratitude but I also know that in order to process these very human emotions, it is important to honor them without judgement. And so I did. I cried and I accepted the hug and love from my brother and I composed myself, re-joining my family to be present in the moment with my family and my son.
It is so hard to balance the two at times, being present yet also acknowledge that it's ok to feel the hurt. It's hard to feel comfortable in a room that could never possibly understand and thankfully so because understanding means they would have to know this loss and I do not wish that on anyone. It's so hard to watch other families, my siblings families, as their children grow and become individuals and know that it is yet another thing that we have lost; all the years and experiences that we will not get with Ruthie Lou. I am so happy for my siblings, I love them. I want nothing more than their families complete with them but it is also a reminder of so much loss. Tonight, I visually could see all that I lost in Ruthie Lou. I lost a screaming, running three year old girl who likes to twirl in pretty skirts or maybe she'd rather play soccer, who loves her grammie the best or is it grandpa?! I lost the kisses and hugs and sharing my food with two kids instead of one. I lost cousin number four (of six) who will always be here but will never really be here. I lost my child. My child died.
So at the holidays, if I appear withdrawn, disinterested, not present or engaged, I may have just had a realization of something more that I have lost. And if I choose not to show up because that's what's best for my heart, please allow me to do so gracefully and without guilt, it's more for survival than selfishness. I really want to be part of the family, I really wanted Ruthie Lou to be part of it, too. Please don't pressure me to commit to too much on these days. I know it has been years, but holidays and family gatherings throw my heart right back to the day she died and all that we have missed since. I'm trying over here, and I will just keep trying. Thank you for loving me through it.
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.