People, especially babies, aren’t supposed to die at Christmas. But they do. My son, Luke, was stillborn on Christmas Eve, seven years ago.
I delivered him in the early hours of the morning, and through a fog of grief lit by Christmas lights, I returned home. I was assaulted by festivity. The tree and the stockings attacking me with gaiety, every turn mocking me with mangers and songs about a baby being born.
I remember little else about that day, and the things I do remember are painful and difficult to reflect on. I remember lights so bright they burned, numb tears as I wrapped presents, a silent night that should have included a baby’s cries.
I had four other children then, five now. I am very good at creating the magic I remember from my childhood at Christmas.
I even went through the motions that first day, creating Christmas for children who were too young to understand if it did not come. And now, we bake cookies and decorate gingerbread houses and visit Santa and countdown each day. I don’t think they realize that I am doing my own countdown in my head to the day that was the hardest in my life. But maybe I am not as good at faking cheeriness as I think. One of my daughters, now 11, asked me recently, “Mom, do you like Christmas?”
I paused for a beat, not wanting to take her joy, but also not wanting to lie.
“But you always seem so happy.”
“That’s because I know you all love Christmas.”
And it is true.
I don’t want them to dislike the holidays just because they are hard for me.
And what was once a time of year that I truly hated has faded to more of a low-level melancholy interspersed with moments of joy. I think it will always be a struggle, but it isn’t as intense as it used to be. I have mostly accepted that this is just how the holidays are going to be for me.
But if you are having a difficult time right now, as the world around you is decking its halls and jingling its bells, you are not alone. It is okay to take a step back, to grieve, to feel, to look around and know that someone is missing. You don’t have to fake festivity. But if you are enjoying watching Christmas movies and wrapping presents and laughing as you drink eggnog, that is okay, too. There is no one right way to grieve. Sorrow doesn’t exclude all joy, and celebration doesn’t eliminate all sadness.
Christmas Eve became the day my life cracked.
It broke me open. Rumi says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” My baby was named Lucas. It means “bringer of light”. My life fractured, and his light shone through the space he left. Pieces became peace. I wish you all that peace. Merry Christmas, friends. Happy birthday, baby boy. Let there be light.
Related Post: What I Mean When I Say, “My Daughter Was Stillborn”
Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash