An empty chair in front of Christmas Tree

The Empty Chair

December 17, 2017

I have always loved the holidays.

The magical glow of Christmas lights covering the city. The family that comes to visit. The traditions that I have always longed to share with my husband and our children.

Christmas Ornaments with Names Joshua and Madeline
Photo by Victoria Denney © 2017

When we first found out we were expecting our son, Joshua, we were so excited to begin our new family traditions. We planned to take him to see the Kansas City Plaza lights, a trip to visit Santa, helping decorate Christmas cookies, and watching his face light up at the sight of presents under our tree.

And then he wasn’t here.

On what should have been his first Christmas we instead had an empty stocking and an empty place at the table. Our hearts ached to buy him a “My First Christmas” ornament. To take him to visit Santa. To watch the excitement in his eyes as he opened his first Christmas gift. Instead, our arms were as empty as his stocking and it hurt to find the joy in Christmas that year.

The following year, we watched his little sister’s eyes light up with excitement each time she saw Christmas lights. We bought the “My First Christmas” ornament, we filled her stocking, we started our traditions and with each new holiday event, we felt bittersweet joy and longing.

As we shopped for her Christmas gifts I cried as I looked at the toy trucks wondering which one he would have wanted that year. We bought her a pretty red Christmas dress and tears filled my eyes as we walked past the little matching vests and bow ties. No matter how full our sweet girl made our hearts feel, there was always an empty space.

Last year should have been Joshua’s 4th Christmas. He would have been three and half years old with his little two and half-year-old sister following him around everywhere he went.

Last year was the hardest so far.

Sand dollar Christmas Remembrance Ornament
Photo by Victoria Denney © 2017

Even harder than that first year. Until we had his little sister, our rainbow blessing, we didn’t fully realize how much we were missing. Last year, Madeline’s excitement over Christmas was a beautiful thing to watch. Every Christmas tree she saw, every ornament, every light, she was amazed and giggled with excitement. She was starting to understand what this Christmas thing was all about and it was a joy to watch.

But this is also what hurt the most.

To have an actual physical representation of what we were missing out on was and is hard. Each photo taken we see the one who is missing. Each toy we buy we think of the one we aren’t. Each tradition we continue with our daughter is one more memory we are missing with our son.

Christmas time continues to be one of my favorite times of the year. The lights, the cookies, the magic, but for every breath of joy there is also a bit of sorrow. That longing to hang an extra stocking, to buy the extra gifts, to celebrate another child never goes away. There will always be an empty chair at the table and one less excited child waking us up on Christmas morning.

An empty chair in front of Christmas Tree
Photo by Victoria Denney © 2017

And we will always long for the memories that were never made.

  • Victoria Denney

    Victoria is a wife and mom of two amazing children - Joshua in Heaven and Madeline, their rainbow that they get the joy of watching grow-up here on earth. Victoria blogs about raising a rainbow, anxiety, and life at

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