Blog post

When Joy And Pain Are Forever Bound

November 25, 2018

When joy and pain are forever bound, the days can be long and hard. The pain is crippling at times. The joy is beautiful and awe-inspiring. Together though, this life of pain and joy can be overwhelming. The holiday season seems to exacerbate the feelings. The twinkling lights, the parties, the music, the candlelight, the traditions. The empty chair, the gifts not purchased, the silence, the missing child from the photos. Sometimes it is all just too much.

Life was pretty picture perfect. Then my first child was stillborn. After that moment, nothing was ever the same. It was as if I was holding the most beautiful fragile ornament in my hand and it slipped and shattered leaving a million little pieces on the floor surrounding me. Nothing will ever be what it should have been. Do not get me wrong, life is not all darkness and devastation. But, life is not all sunshine and roses either. Life is a balancing act. A great dichotomy. Moments of great joy. Moments of great pain. All held together at once in an odd tension that both overwhelms and yet offers a perspective like no other.

Related: Darkness And Light: Making Space for Hope

During the season that is proclaimed as the, “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I have often felt over the past 5 years that I do not quite belong. Everyone else seems to be happy and looking with great expectation to gatherings and long held traditions. In the meantime, in the back of my mind I am always conscious of how I should be taking three children to see Santa Claus, buying gifts for a little boy and listening to him rustle under the tree shaking gifts as the days lead closer to Christmas morning. I enjoy every single second that I have with my girls and I believe that every moment is more precious because I am so hyperaware of what is missing. There is joy and happiness. There is also yearning and pain. The honest truth is that the lights just do not twinkle as bright and the cheery music does not lift my spirit the way that it did before.

I am not depressed, nor am I sad all the time and I do not dwell in the past. This is simply my reality. My family will never be fully complete and from the mundane moments of everyday life to the celebrations of birthdays, holidays and family vacations we are always missing something. Someone. My son.

We have found joy in creating new traditions. Each year we are filled with love by inviting others to participate in Random Acts of Kindness. We invite our family and friends to spread love, kindness and peace and then send us letters addressed to our son telling us about their experience. We place the letters in his stocking and then we read them out loud as a family on Christmas Day at his spot in the cemetery. It is a tangible way of celebrating him and seeing how his life touches others and is impacting our world. In the traditional Santa photos he is always represented in a way that most would never notice but we know that he is included in the photos with his sisters. His ornaments hang in a prominent spot on the tree. And, his candle is always burning, the flame dancing brightly during all our family celebrations. These things help us. These things help to ease the pain.

Related: When Joy and Pain Exist Together

When you do not know the joy without the pain that came before it, words fall short of expressing what life is like. Beautiful and precious. Broken and mending. Fragile and strong. Bittersweet. A place where pain and joy reside side by side.

If you are struggling and feel as though others do not get it or understand you, know that you are not alone. If you feel as though you no longer quite fit in, know that you are not the only one. If you are struggling with how to relate or engage this holiday season, know that the struggle is real and normal. If you have found holiday traditions that fill your heart with joy, please share so that we can celebrate with you. If you are unable to do what you have always done before, know that that is OK. This journey is so lonely, and this season exacerbates feelings like no other. We are stronger when we are together. After all, that is how we are Still Standing. We will make it through together.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/freestocks.org

  • DeAndrea Dare

    DeAndrea is a wife, mother of three beautiful children, and the Founder and Executive Director of A Memory Grows, a 501(c)(3) based in Fort Worth, Texas that provides retreats and events for parents who are grieving the death of their child.

    4 Comments

    • Amber Frye

      November 25, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      I lost my son in August at 21 weeks 6days die to fetal abnormalities. My due date was December 28th so Christmas will never be the same again. We have gotten an ornament for him but I would love to know how you incorporate his memory into photos with Santa with your daughters?

      1. DeAndrea Dare

        DeAndrea Dare

        December 2, 2018 at 10:07 pm

        Hi Amber. Thank you so much for reading and for responding. I am so sorry to learn that you know this pain as well. I have a stuffed dog that is weighted to Max’s weight that is often in the photos with Santa and the girls. The first Christmas after Max died I took Max’s photo and Santa took a picture with it, so sometimes that photo sits on a table next to Santa. Last year I forgot the dog and the photo and so Santa wore my ring that has Max’s foot prints on it. It barely fit on the tip of his pinky finger but he was so nice to do it and I know that Max is represented there. I would be happy to share pictures with you if you want to shoot me a message on Facebook. Thank you again for reading. Take care of yourself this holiday season. I will be thinking of you and your son!

    • Clara

      November 27, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      At 20 weeks pregnant I went into early labor, had my baby Sofia and she passed away in my arms. I know your pain. ♥️♥️♥️Thank you for sharing your story. Big hug.

      1. DeAndrea Dare

        DeAndrea Dare

        December 2, 2018 at 10:02 pm

        Clara, I am so sad to learn about your baby Sofia. I also know and can sense the love that you continue to share with her. Thank you so much for reading the article and for commenting. Sending you a hug as well!

    {Thoughts}

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