This time of year (obviously, if you’ve been around here this past week) makes me very reflexive. That is, given to reflection.
And, lately, I’ve been thinking of Gabriel. Not the archangel, the son, my son. (Possibly the son because of mentions of the archangel.)
As I often do when thinking about Gabriel, my son, I wandered over to Glow in the Woods, where I was reminded, forcibly, that I am not alone. Unfortunately.
The first Christmas after Gabriel died, I did not want to do anything. We did not put up a tree; we did not decorate; if we exchanged gifts, I’m sure they were of the book/DVD variety — nothing special to my mind.
I don’t remember what we did. I think Christmas Eve at his parents; Christmas day at mine. To add to the pain of the holiday, my SIL’s boy was only two months old. It was horrible. (None of my brothers’ sons, of which he had two at the time, a toddler & an 8-month-old, were in Erie when we were. Which was probably very helpful to me and my peace of mind. Such as it was.)
I probably drank a lot. Which is probably why I don’t remember very much.
Christmas is about the birth of a child. It is a holiday rife with images of babies and children — happy, lively babies and children. The irony of celebrating such a holiday is soul-crushing for a bereaved parent, especially in that first year. I am not exaggerating.
For me, I am sure it only got better because the next Christmas that rolled around featured Flora. And it was still difficult, and not just because of the stunning lack of sleep.
Grieving is hard for anyone this time of year. The pressure to express forced gaiety must be enormous. I for one would love to let the grief-stricken off the hook.
There is no ‘joy to the world’ when your baby (father, mother, spouse, fill in the blank) is (recently) dead. A first holiday without him/her is numbing. I stumbled forward — Dan and I stumbled forward together.
Six years after that Christmas, here we are reveling in our daughters’ wonder and joy. Answering questions about Santa. Buying gifts and decorating trees. Toying with the idea of baking (not really). Creating gifts for teachers.
But not all of us babyloss parents are here. Not all of those newly bereaved are here.
If you know someone recently bereaved, reach out. I know you don’t know what to say. Say, “I’m thinking of you.” Say, “I’m thinking of him/her too.” Say, “I miss him/her too.” Send a card, send an angel ornament. The grateful feeling that person will have, knowing he or she is not alone with their memories, their loss, it will be a gift. [Edited to add: Need proof that what I say is good advice? Go here. I’ll be writing her an email myself soon.]
[Edited to add: And I’m touched, too, by this post. I thought of Her Bad Mother — and a number of people I know who have lost parents this year — when I was writing. I’m glad I told her.]
Here is the comment I left at “winter. discontent.”:
“And if I am going to sit here, with everyone in the [Glow in the Woods] community, I will say, Take it easy on yourself. Try not to let others’ expectations force you into ‘celebrating’. Use the winter as an excuse to hibernate with your spouse, and your grief. It’s okay. Have some tea; have some wine. Rest.
“This time of year can be like a slap in the face. I remember that. I think it’s okay to turn your face away, and wait for the new year, the new spring.”