Christmas and Regret: Did I give him enough?

Christmas WreathThe Christmas tree has been packed away. The lights have been stowed. Stockings no longer hang and wreaths have been taken down for another year. Christmas is well and truly over and I am a little sad. Not the usual Yuletide  hangover, but regret that Christmas wasn’t as magical as I could have made it. We had sickness and birthday parties, beach holidays and projects that all encroached upon the season. Christmas cookies were hurriedly baked on Christmas Eve. The school carols were rained out and we didn’t get a chance to go to another. I didn’t go to a Christmas Eve mass, as I was so very tired and unwell. Hand made Christmas presents went unmade. We didn’t take the train one evening to see the big Christmas tree in town.

I didn’t make Xavier a decoration this year and I didn’t place a Christmas tree beside his grave. His little Christmas area was necessarily condensed due to the reach of a curious toddler.  I didn’t get a chance to write Xavier a letter. Out of everything, these things sadden me the most. Sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans. And I feel like he was forgotten – not by family and friends, but by me. That he didn’t have the Christmas he deserved. 

We visited his grave on Christmas morning. There was tinsel and ceramic Santas on many of the headstones in the children’s garden. Fresh flowers and new toys. Xavier received presents from my family, as he does ever year. There were new things to show him and leave with him. He is and was and will always be remembered by my family and close friends, but I feel like I let him down. He had no tinsel, no nodding snowman, no plastic poinsettia flowers. Was I letting him down or letting something go?

These little things I do – they must be accompanied with the purpose of healing and connection, not the weight of obligation. Guilt is always at the frayed corners of my relationship with Xavier. It comes creeping in unbidden in so many forms.  Accusing me of not grieving right, that I don’t love enough, that he deserves more of my time, more of my tears, more of my heart.

My first Christmas without Xavier was full of Xavier. I did something for him every day of December. I crafted things and wrote things and cried and felt close to him.  This December, I struggled to find the time. That first December, I seemed to have nothing but time – empty days that should have been filled with a baby. This year, everyone and everything jostled for attention and so much was left wanting.

I clearly remember the first walk to remember I attended after Xavier died. He’d been gone a few short months. After the walk, there were speakers. One family talked about their child gone too soon – so many years ago – and said “we don’t think about her everyday any more.” I felt a mixture of relief and confusion hearing that. I couldn’t imagine Xavier not filling every single thought. Up until that point everyone I had spoken to that had lost a child, even those years and years along their grief journey, said that their baby was still the last thing they thought of at night.  Xavier is still the last person I think about most evenings, but there probably have been days crowded with other things where he has escaped my thoughts.

I still need to make spaces for him – this blog being the primary one. But I also have to be okay with the next stage of grief – where he is not such a constant companion. And I need to find the right balance between honouring him and accepting the limitations of time. I don’t think I did that properly this Christmas – but I make a commitment to do so the next.

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