Getting Real About Another Holiday Season After Loss
Here’s an honest, real snapshot of my life as a loss mom during the holiday season.
It’s the second Christmas without my baby. I am so unimaginably angry that she doesn’t get to be here with us. I’m still heartbroken, restless, and I constantly ache to hold my child. I want to kickbox the Christmas tree standing in the corner of my living room. I want to scream and cry and throw a tantrum; I want to make so much noise that the walls come hurtling down around me.
It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to nurse my broken loss mama heart. When I finally felt partially stitched together again, that’s when the anger really kicked in and I could hear it over the noise of my deep sadness. On the outside, I look pleasant enough, I am kind to others. Inside, I’m constantly stuffing the anger and bitterness back into some recess in my brain, putting it on layaway until I can afford to express it. Sometimes it leaks out when I least expect it, and I tremble at the injustice of my and my husband’s situation. The unfairness of it flows through my boiling blood and I fear I’ll explode.
My desire is to be real with people. I want to show them how much it still hurts, how much their happiness magnifies my misery. I don’t want to smile and nod politely while I hear them talk about their delightful grandchildren or their own beautiful child. Instead, I want to get up with a morose look on my face and promptly exit the room with my two middle fingers sticking straight up in the air. I want to tell them that their lovely little stories rip my already ravaged heart in two. It’s not their fault, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. I should have the joy they have too.
Sometimes I fight the urge to repetitively scream the word “WHY?” into the sky until my voice becomes hoarse and my throat cracks and bleeds. WHY did we have to lose our child, WHY can’t we conceive another, WHY is this surreal hellish ghastly horrible story my real life? Why can’t I escape, even for a moment, from this sick, awful nightmare? Why isn’t my daughter here with me???
I can’t fully embrace the holidays. I can’t get past the fact that my Lucy is gone and she’ll never open a Christmas gift or clap her little hands with excitement along to the tune of a Christmas song. She’ll never be able to help us decorate the tree, sit on Santa’s lap, or eat too many cookies with her Daddy. This doesn’t just make me sad, it straight up pisses me off. I cannot bear it. I am insanely jealous of the parents who get to do all those things with their kids, and no matter how much I try to brush that aside, it keeps gnawing away at my insides.
Occasionally, I feel strong. So strong, I even find myself singing again, laughing, hanging pictures on my walls, creating, cleaning, organizing, even looking forward to upcoming events… that feeling dissipates when I realize how truly sad it is that I must look at the most basic of accomplishments as a victory. Those basic little accomplishments are signs that I’ve learned to walk again in this new person’s skin, but I cannot celebrate them because that progress is unseen by anyone else. That’s the thing about those tiny steps, they require a sort of courage that those not impacted by a loss like this cannot possibly understand. It’s constant mental warfare, and it’s exhausting. Especially this time of year.
There are so many things about the holiday season that amplify my grief. The additional happiness, joy, gift giving, and family-focused events that surround me magnifies the stark contrast of the emptiness in my life with the apparent fullness in the lives of others. I get so weary of lying and pretending everything is okay when it is so clearly not; I’m never more fatigued by it all than I am during this ‘magical’ holiday time. I wish I could say that everything has gotten easier as time has gone on; some things have, but mostly, it hasn’t. It’s still a steely knife to my heart when I see joyous holiday-themed pregnancy announcements appear in my newsfeed. I fight the urge to punch the nearest bystander when I see a blessed family with a pile of kids or a glowing new mama with her precious baby, people fawning over it as she proudly smiles. It cuts deep. The holiday baby/toddler outfits in the center aisles of any given store make me want to vomit; the cutesy reindeers on the butts practically bring on the dry heaves. It makes me want to sprint to the nearest exit, knocking displays and people over on my way to the door. I know I sound like a vile, heinous Grinch with all these confessions, but dammit, it’s the truth. Loss life is hard, and the holidays make it worse.
There’s so much hurt that hangs on, so much anger and pain. Counteracting it takes a great deal of effort, and I don’t always succeed. I scuffle with toxic negativity, sift through the garbage of jealousy, push myself to be better, not bitter… it’s truly a constant uphill battle. The fact that I’m willing to fight all that darkness each day tells me, if no one else, that I’m a damn warrior. When I see it this way, I feel strong, unconquerable… I find myself in the ranks with other loss warriors like myself and I realize that my survival is worth going into combat for.
It’s then that I can find my daughter Lucy’s light, and I find the strength to keep clawing through the pain of losing her. I forgive myself for being so angry, so broken; I know that tomorrow will come, holiday or no, and I will pick myself up, dust off the hostility, and keep going. Amongst my sadness and resentment, I look for hope, I look for light, and mostly, I see the love that still remains. It’s what I do. I’m a survivor, especially during the holidays.