The Empty Stockings
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…
“Mommy, how will Santa know that Nate and Sam aren’t here?”
As we decorated our house for Christmas, my daughter noticed that we have six stockings but only four to be filled. She is just learning to read and was very proud to be able to read the names knitted into them. She placed her own stocking on one side of the mantle along with those of her angel brothers, Nate and Sam. She placed mine, my husband’s and her living brother’s on the other side.
After years of explaining to her about Nate and Sam, who died before she was born, you would think I would be accustomed to these kinds of questions, but they still catch me off guard. I am never sure how to answer her.
“Santa just knows, honey. He’ll leave the stockings empty because he knows they aren’t here with us.”
She seemed satisfied with that, so I am too. Nate and Sam are not here with us, but they are still here. As I hang their stockings, or the special ornaments my aunt bought them, or look at the two empty places at our table, which are still empty, I think of them. They are always with me in these moments and I enjoy the quiet times I can think of them now. This wasn’t always true, of course. The first Christmas without them was horrible. The second one wasn’t much better. All I wanted for Christmas was a baby, my babies, and I ached like nothing else. Those who have never grieved a child seem incapable of understanding the very physical pain of intense grief. It hurts.
Take care of yourself this Christmas. Know that it is okay to cry so loud the neighbors can hear you howl. It is okay to not go to that party, or to avoid shopping or to not be in the mood to sing Christmas carols. It is okay to feel that pain. Don’t let anyone pressure you to feel what you are not ready for. Grieve in your own time and at your own pace. Create your own rituals, and avoid ones that make you feel uncomfortable. Make room for grief at Christmas. If “grief is the price we pay for love”, then Christmas, which is all about love, is also all about grief.