Reclaiming the Silence – Permission to Just Be

The last few weeks have been a blur of activity.  I have been hard at work organising a fashion fund-raising event for SIDS and Kids, whilst dealing with the every-day craziness of my life.   There have been late nights and mother guilt and reliance on beautiful friends and family.  There have been highs and lows whilst organising the event.   And then finally the event itself, over and done with in the space of a few short hours.

Today, I spent most of the day just holding my Elijah.  I was going to do the neglected house work.  I was going to tie up the inevitable loose ends after an event.   I did none of those things.  I spent some time with a dear girlfriend and the rest of the day curled up on the couch cuddling and playing with my precious baby.  I do not do this very often.  I do not give myself permission to do this very often.

As a society we have an obsession with busy-ness.  We measure our worth against how much we do, how much we achieve.  I am guiltier than most – packing my days with all sorts of activity.  Even when I pause for a moment, my thoughts turn to checking my Facebook or email.  My mind constantly chattering.  Thoughts flying from one place to another.  Rarely settling in one spot.   Rarely allowing me to just focus on Elijah and nothing else.  Not his food or his bath or his sleep routine.  But just Elijah himself.  Getting on the floor with him and playing with him.  Tracing every one of his features and committing each eyelash to memory.  Just marvelling at his smell.   The things you do with a newborn that start to fade as they grow.

After Xavier died, for the first time in my adult life, I had the gift of uninterrupted time.  I chose to spend that time connecting with my son.  A wonderful friend and I would exchange epic emails about our sons gone too soon.  I would craft and create.  I would walk.  And at times, I would just sit and be.  I would sit and wait for a sense of peace.  A sense of Xavier to descend.  I could not do this in the hurly burly bustle of every day life.  I needed to set aside time.  I needed to make that conscious decision because it was the only way I could mother my son.  In the depth of grief, the present was my only friend – the past held too much pain and the future too much fear.  I had to practice mindfulness.  I had to let silence into a life that previously had only known noise.  Because my Xavier can only speak to me in a whisper on the breeze.  My Xavier needs the silence.

Elijah lives and breathes and cries and demands my attention.  I do not need to consciously create space in my life to be his mother – it comes without my doing anything.  But I do need to occasionally reclaim some silence and calm in my life.  I need to stop and smell the baby.  I need to stop the busy sometimes and give myself permission to just be.  Just to sit still and be comfortable in the silence.  To know the value of it.  To appreciate that those moments are part of my being a mother to my three boys.  And a vitally important part.

 

Mumma, I am Five

What five looks like

My beautiful five year old boy often challenges me.   He is teeming with ideas and questions and opinions.  His energy is apparently boundless and his determination to get his own way often stronger than my will to enforce boundaries.  I find myself counting down from 10, and the rage barely simmering by the time I get to 1.  I love him and adore him, but at times I find him extremely difficult to parent.  It is in those moments, I need to remember what is to be five.

If he had eloquence and insight, this is what my five year old might say to me:

Mumma, I am five.  In my veins course fire and imagination, energy and creativity.  My legs were not made to sit still.  My arms were not made to rest.  I am busy, busy, busy.   I need to run and to jump and to play.  Sometimes the enormity of my energy overwhelms me – and I need to get it out. Out. OUT.

Mumma, I am five.  When I see boundaries, both figurative and literal, I want to push against them.  I need to climb them and test them and see where I stand.  This is my job and it is your job to guide me, to limit me, to expand my world and to keep me safe.

Mumma, I am five.  I don’t just play Batman and Star-wars and Octonauts.  I AM Batman.  I AM Luke. I AM Kwazzi.  When I am saving the world or the galaxy or the oceans, it is much more important to me than cleaning my room or eating my breakfast.  Give me time to break away from the places that consume me.  I will listen.  Eventually.

Mumma, I am five. I know you don’t like guns and we aren’t allowed them in the house.  But I will continue to bite my sandwiches into a pistol shape and wield the plastic cricket wickets.  I am playing a game that boys have played since little boys begun.

Mumma, I am five.  I am very grown up and I am still very small.  I am negotiating a whole new set of rules and people and things at school.  I am learning new things and trying new things and figuring out who I am.  I am your grown-up boy.  I am still your baby.  I might push away a hug and want kisses a moment later.  I am figuring a lot out right now – I need you to help me.

Mumma, I am five.  I love you so much and I do want to please you.  I want to do the right thing.  Sometimes, it can take me a little while to figure out what that is.  Please do not think that your parenting up until this point has been for naught.  That I am a stranger adopting behaviour you never modelled.  This is all a process.  I will come back to what I have learned.

Mumma, I am only five.  There are a lot of expectations on me.
Mumma, I am such a big boy of five.  I like to be grown-up.
Mumma, I am such a little boy of five.  I will always be your baby.

Mumma, you are doing a good job

Parenting in Absentia … the guilt and the reality of parenting living children whilst grieving

I remember the first time I ever paid for an iPhone app.   We were in the hospital not long after hearing the devastating news that Xavier would not be coming home with us.  Isaac was demanding attention I could not give.  I turned to technology as baby-sitter.  I relinquished  previous rules, gave him my phone and in a metaphorical sense, I never really asked for it back.

In those dark days after Xavier died I could not give Isaac the parenting he deserved.  He heard yes too often to requests for things when I had no fight.  He heard no too often to requests for my time and attention when I had none to give.   My wonderful sister in particular stepped in and looked after Isaac when I could not.  There was a period of time when I was completely absent as a parent.  My previous approach to parenting – to be present, to be fun, to be involved, to say “no” but then redirect attention to some brilliant new game or activity – all of it impossible.

Even in it, I knew I was being unfair to Isaac. I felt terrible guilt over it, yet I had no capacity to fix the situation.   He was never phsycially neglected,  but I feel like I missed the months of his life that followed Xavier’s death.   Like everything else, I went through the motions, whilst my mind was elsewhere.

Even as the darkest fog of grief lifted, my parenting had changed.  I was more permissive.   Isaac’s short term happiness, and even compliance, more important to me than the longer term effects.  It has been a hard Pandora’s box to try and close.   With the advent of school, some behaviours have crystallised as being of concern.   I look back to those days of absent parenting and wonder if I am now reaping what was sown.   And then I ask myself whether I am using grief as an excuse?

Most children go through a period of time when their parents’ attention and time for them contracts.  Whether it be a new baby or return to work, there comes a time when the best of parenting routines come unstuck.  And Isaac is certainly not the only five year old to be a little crazy, prone to the occasional tantrum, unhappy with the word “no” and fond of fighting games.

I can spend time with my guilt over my absent parenting.  I can beat myself about it and wish things to be different.   Or I can choose to change our present behaviour into something more positive.

So I have decided to do the following:

  1. Every morning, we will dance to William Pharrell’s “Happy”.  You cannot help but start the day on a positive note with that song in your head.  And it was the first song Elijah clapped to.  So it must be good.
  2. Every morning, we will talk about our intention for the day.  We will spend a moment or two discussing what positive thing we want out of that particular day.
  3. The Star Wars, the Ninjago, the Chima – they will no longer be a part of our week days.
  4. Because I am taking away something important from Isaac, I want to give him something.  We will work on a project each week.  It might be an art or craft project, a building project, or something else.  But we will do something creative together.
  5. We will start each day with some gentle yoga.  Every week Elijah and I attend a yoga class.  I might go into that class wound up and anxious – worried about various aspects of my life.  I come out of that class and I am no longer worried.  My problems have not magically been resolved, but my perspective is more realistic after spending time connecting my body to my mind.  If Isaac and I spend some time with yoga, I think it will help us both.

At then end of the day, children are enormously resilient.  My parenting in absentia will always bother me more than it has Isaac.

For those parenting living children and living in the thick fog of grief – be gentle with yourself.  You can only give what you can give.  Somedays that may not be very much at all.  That’s okay.  You are an amazing parent – you have made the choice to still be here with your living family.

For all parents, we can’t be perfect each day.  We can do our best each day.  Some days are going to be better than others, and even when it all goes wrong, there is always tomorrow to look forward to.

Becoming the New

I’ll tell you a little shared parenting secret. Children don’t get easier with age. You just get better at parenting. It starts to sink into your skin and becomes an integral part of who you are. Children change your values, your viewpoint and your priorities. As a first time mother, I was faced with a lifestyle shock, an identity crisis, a love more intense than I had ever imagined and a fatigue I would never have guessed existed. All this whilst figuring out how to mother a tiny dependant being with no eloquent way to express his needs. It is a lot. Sometimes I think we forget just how much. But eventually I was reshaped and settled into motherhood. I no longer needed to analyse it or agonise over it. It simply became me – a much quieter and more assured part of myself.

The grief I felt after losing Xavier was the inverse of the joy I felt when I first held him. Where there was once hope, there was despair. Where there was joy, there was only pain. And where a baby once was, a huge, yawning, aching gap. But settling into grief and having it become a part of who I am is, in many ways, like the gradual acceptance of motherhood itself into my psyche. At first, there is violence and confusion. A world rocked and emotions displaced. People would tell me that the death of my child would change me – that it was inevitable. And I would nod and inside I would scream “No – I don’t want it to change me, I don’t want to lose who I am.”

“I will not let this loss define me,” became a mantra, an anthem, a steely promise. But children change you. Experience changes you. Xavier’s life changed me and Xavier ‘s death changed me. In retrospect, I was clinging to the idea “I won’t let this loss defeat me”. The darkest days of grief drag you down and under. Leave you gasping for air. And you fight. You literally fight for your life. The length of that dark time varies from person to person who has experienced the death of a child. But the weight of it, the almost unbearable weight, seems a consistent experience. Gradually it eases, the grief becomes gentler and the memories less intense. The double edged sword of distance, granting a measure of peace whilst at the same time blurring the memories of a much loved little face.

But the fact of his absence remains. That fact is no gentler. I have grown to deal with it in a gentler way, but the bald facts remain as horrific as they did at the start. That will never change. When he left he set my life on a different course. Everything changed in that moment. And forever I will be bereaved mother. He is not forgotten. He changed everything.

Not long after Xavier died, a dear family member gave me a silver X. I had his handprint stamped on a silver heart and I found a sunshine pendant. Those three charms hung from my neck and I vowed I’d never wear another necklace. But as time went on, I felt the need to wear it constantly lessen. Xavier had become so much a part of me that the physical talisman seemed to lose the grave importance it once held. Xavier moved into a safer place within my soul. A quiet and assured place that would never give him up. I still wear the necklace sometimes – now not so much to feel connected, but rather than to wear something of him with pride.

I believe he is safe within my story and my story safe within his. He has thread himself through the fabric of my narrative and the narrative of others. He will be remembered. He will live on. For my words belong to him and when I write, it feels like his words whispered in my ear.

The things that stay the same – Mothering after loss

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Motherhood is a strong bond.  Not even death can sever it.   And there are certain things about mothering a child no longer here that are exactly the same as mothering a living child.  I wanted to write a list of them.  To provide comfort to those also missing their children.  To let those that surround the grieving know how important this most invisible of motherhood remains.

1. You love them a little more each day
The first moment I held Isaac, I could not imagine my heart could accommodate any more love.  I was bursting with it.  But each day went on and each day I woke up surprised to find I loved him a little more.  It was the same with Xavier and now with Elijah.  But loving them a little more daily does not cease with death.  Every morning after Xavier left, I loved him more than the day before.  In particularly that first year, where the mounting love seems exponential is its growth.  That love that begins when you learn you are pregnant, expands with each scan, each kick, swells when you hold them for the first time, grows each time you even think of them.  It does not go away.  I do not miss him less each day, I miss him more.  I do not love him less each day, I love him more.  And this is perhaps the crux of why it takes a very long time to arrive in a place of peace after losing a child. The passing days do not take away the hurt.  For the first few months, they only added to it.  Just as I do his brothers, every day I love Xavier a little more.

2. You worry about them
I worry about Xavier.  Worry if he is happy.  Worry where he is.  In the early days of grief I felt that if I just knew where he was, just knew he was okay, the pain would be so much more bearable.  I worried about burying him.  That he would be alone at nights.  I worried about leaving him in the hands of the funeral home.  Worried that they would treat him tenderly.  I worry that others won’t treat his memory as gently as I do.  As he has grown, and my understanding of him has changed, I worry less.  But, just as I do with his brothers, I will always worry about him.

3. Sibling rivalry and jealousy still exist
Whenever I make Xavier something, Isaac wants me to make him one too.  The Christmas after Xavier died, I made him a stocking and Isaac immediately wanted one.  If I buy a toy or ornament for Xavier’s grave, Isaac wants one for himself.  There are some things that bind brothers, no matter how far apart they reside.  They will always be brothers, and they will always demand the fair share of my attention.

4. You get mother guilt
I often feel that I am not a perfect mother to Isaac and Elijah.  I sometimes watch other parents and I am concerned that I am not measuring up.  I have guilt about certain decisions.  I watch other bereaved parents and they way they honour their children.  Through amazing creativity.  Through inspirational fund-raising.  Through words and deeds.  And I wonder if I am doing enough.  But how can we ever feel we are enough for our children?  I will never reach it for Isaac or Elijah.  And I won’t for Xavier.  Because I want to be perfect for them, and I am imperfect.

5. You are proud of them
Every parent is proud of their children.  I so love watching new parents with their firstborn.  The absolute pride is tangible.  They are walking a well-trod path but they act like the first people to discover how amazing starting a family is.  I know we did.  Parents want to share photos, tell stories about their children.  It is no different when your child lives somewhere you cannot go.  I share photos of a beautiful, living Xavier.  But there are those whose only photos of their precious ones are after they had passed.  How privileged I feel when I get to see those photos and share not in that parent’s grief, but in that parent’s pride.  I feel proud of what Xavier has accomplished through his journey.  Each of my boys will do amazing things that will make my heart soar with pride – the two on earth and the one in heaven.

I parent each of my boys according to who they are and what they need.  But I will always be mother to each and love them to eternity.

When the family tree has fallen leaves

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This week Isaac’s prep class is discussing family.  It makes perfect sense.  It’s accessible and universal for four to five year olds.  It lends itself to numeracy and literacy concepts whilst  paving the way for discussions about diversity.   It allows children to learn that families come in different shapes and sizes.  It makes perfect sense.  Unless the shape of your family includes a large heart-shaped hole.

When the prep newsletter came home, stating that the coming week would include discussions about family, I talked to Isaac.  I told him it was up to him if he wanted to share Xavier with his class.   For me personally, sharing Xavier has became an issue with varying shades of grey.  There are times I choose to remain silent about him.  Not to deny his existence, but to protect his memory.  I have become more select regarding who has the privilege of knowing my son.

But when I told Isaac he had a choice, he looked at me in that way only five year olds can and said, “Of course I will include Xavier.  He’s my brother.”    And I was reminded of the black and white world children live in. There was never any question in his mind.  My concerns are not his concerns.

I worry about him having something in his life that sets him apart from the other kids. I worry about him being ostracised or people not believing him.  I worry that he will be perceived in a certain light due to his history.  I am angry that he even has to deal with something most adults would struggle with.  I am concerned that Xavier’s story will be taken home by a child and it will become sensationalistic talk over a stranger’s dinner table.  From a selfish point of view, I am worried about people I do not know learning about Xavier and making inevitable judgements before they even have a chance to meet our family.

Yet Isaac takes it all in his stride.

And I am quietly confident the children in his class will too.  Children have a beautiful and amazing way of bringing things into their simplest and purest form.  Isaac will simply say that he has a brother in heaven.

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When Isaac came home the other day, he said used a wonderful turn of phrase – that the class were “celebrating” each other’s families.   That he chose to celebrate Xavier.  And that’s a beautiful thing, because Xavier is worth celebrating.

Brave new worlds – the first day of school

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Today was a milestone day – my eldest son starting school.  No hiding from the fact that he is growing up and entering into worlds I cannot follow.  Already a bundle of emotions I find hard to fathom.  Energy, frustration, eagerness, imagination, wildness, joy and longing bundled tightly into a body too small to handle the range.   Coiled.

This beautiful baby of mine, growing up and away.   Yesterday, I held him helpless in my arms.  Tonight, I watch him sleep.    His still full cheek, the deep breath of sleep, there are echoes of the baby.  He will wake tomorrow morning, full of boundless energy and enthusiasm.  Impatient to live every moment.  And in that bounce, is the boy.   He will tell me things that he has learned.  He will unknowingly utter wise things and I will see the promise of the man.

He is on the cusp of a new chapter.  Entering into realms that I can still remember of my own childhood.  Not just vague and dream like snippets – but years and events I can recall with clarity.  I am no longer a “new” mum.  My little one is getting older and I with him.   There is such promise ahead but I look back with a tinge of sadness.  I will no longer be his world.   There will come a time when I occupy just a small part of it.  But he will always have my whole heart.

I get to watch him grow.  Watch him discover passions.  Watch him succeed.  Watch him struggle.  Be there when he soars as he falls in love and there to catch him if he falls.  And this day feels like the beginning of all of that.

So many mums this week will be feeling similarly as they bravely hug their boys’ and girls’ goodbye and leave the school gates feeling a little empty.   And then there are those whose arms have been empty for a long time.  And for whom the fresh new school year heralds a new ache.  Those that should have been sending their little ones into the school yard for the first time but instead feel a new pang.   For their little ones, frozen in time.  Forever tiny.  Wishing their tears were falling because their child was growing up.

Today, I was brave and did not cry.  Tears threatened but I beat them back for my son.  But on the day Xavier would have started school, I will not have to fein bravery for the sake of him.  And the tears will fall for a milestone that never was.

I am reminded, both for Xavier, and today for Isaac, of Khalil Gibran’s poem

Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. 

So as my eldest lets go of my hand and flies, I will forever strive to be the stable bow.

Mothering a Rainbow

For the most part, I believe I am mothering Elijah in much the same way as I did Isaac and Xavier as babies. But there are moments. Snatches of time where everything is different. When it becomes truly apparent I am mothering a rainbow child.

Whilst pregnant, every twinge, real or imagined, sent me to the darkest of conclusions. Every time I caught his heartbeat on the monitor, or felt him kick, my breath would catch with gratitude. I get to carry this baby. I will get to hold this baby. I will get to keep this baby. How could I fathom such a blessing?

A few days after giving birth, a cocktail of postpartum hormones running through my veins, holding him tight as a newborn baby and begging him not to die. My heart aching at what was lost and the unbearable thought of further pain. Then his little fingers curled around mine, reassuring and real. He was staying. Staying.

Looking into his new but wise eyes and asking in a whisper if he met Xavier, if he knows how he is. Searching the deep blue seriousness for a flicker of recognition. Some sign of communion. He is not his brother. Yet a reflection of his brother. His brothers’ blood running through his veins.

He is softly sleeping, shallow breaths making his chest rise and fall almost indiscernible. I watch fervently, hand on his little body, willing each little breath to come. I am the guardian of his sleep. If I leave him for a little while in the hands of rest, I feel guilty and panicked. I come back to find him safe and feel like I have cheated fate. Every morning when he wakes, I am elated and overcome with gratitude. Sleep, that silent thief, has stayed faithful and not turned on us again. I am so blessed.

Sometimes I will pause before I check on him. For if he has entered a realm I cannot, I want to hover in the innocent happiness of the moment before knowledge. Then I start and I wonder if that moment would represent the chance to save him. All this inner turmoil and when I finally check on him, he is peacefully sleeping. No care in the world. He is peace, he is calm. He is balm to my wound-up heart.

Parenting after loss is a double edged sword. On one side is the almost unbearable knowledge that your child can die. On the other a level of gratitude that reaches deep into your heart. I have known the depths, so I will appreciate the heights. We have been through the thunderstorm, we have seen the rainbow and we are flying with the sun.

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The power of “Me Too”

ImageWhen Isaac was only a few months old I joined my first mothers group.  I still remember the first meeting.  Each of us warily trying to gauge where we sat in this group of other first-time mums.  I was sure that they were all doing a better job than I was.   My little man, born a month too early, seemed behind in all of his milestones compared to the other babies.  In turn, each of them thought every other person in the room was confident – sailing breezily through motherhood.  It took a few catch ups, but eventually one of us was honest enough to admit it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  A collective breath was let out and we all rejoiced in the universal mummy cry of “me too!”

For some reason, just knowing that you are not alone in what you are experiencing halves the anxiety.  Just knowing that there is a sister out there feeling exactly as you do lessens the isolation.  Comfort is drawn from the fact that the strange and terrifying things happening in your own life are nothing new.  That mothers before have walked the same path and mothers will surely follow your footsteps in the future.

When Xavier died, I craved “me too.”  People would say “I can’t imagine what you are going through.”  They were being kind, respectful – acknowledging the magnitude of the pain.  But part of me would think “Try – please try to imagine what I am going through –  I am so very lonely.”   Gradually, I met those that said “me too”.  Those who had also lost their precious children.   Our own little mother’s club brought together by a common pain and bound together by a common strength.  So often we say to each other “me too”.   Sometimes it takes bravery to articulate our current struggles.  In a group of fractured hearts, no-one wants to inflict further pain.  So we are cautious and tender with our words.  Stories will start “I don’t want to offend anyone.”  And yet whenever someone is brave enough to launch themselves off that particular cliff, the echoes come back.  “Me too!”  And there is another collective sigh of relief.

There are times, within our circles of mothers, that we might reveal something.  Something that took bravery to share.  And silence may greet our courage.  It does not make that struggle unique.  It just means that particular group hasn’t met that particular challenge yet.  Isaac is about to start school and he is nervous about it.   It took a little while before I found out that another friend’s little boy, similar in temperament to Isaac, was experiencing the same thing.   I had talked to other friends, who were sympathetic, but it was not something they were going through.   And it can feel like a mistake to be vulnerable when the “me too” you were hoping for becomes the chirping of crickets.  Suddenly, you feel on the outer.  The cosy camaraderie found with other mothers feels forced and faked.  The very thing you were hoping for – validation of your motherhood, assurance that you are doing okay – veers into the opposite direction.   But that vulnerability remains important.  Because we the power of “Me Too” only works when someone is brave enough to be vulnerable first.

So, mothers, let us continue to be honest and bare and brave with our hearts.  And if our hearts are not reflected back in the experience of our closest friends, let us not take that as failure but as diversity.   If our friend reveals something we cannot relate to at that moment, let us be gentle and understanding.  Support comes through collective experience, but it also comes through a kind word, an attentive ear and a non-judgemental heart.

And so this is Christmas….

Against all odds, it is December.  Mid-December at that.  The post that I had wanted to write since December first has been sitting on a shelf in my mind – perhaps accompanied by that ubiquitous little elf – whilst the world has spun around me.  The season of festivity.  The season of good will.  The season of busy, busy, busy.

Last year Christmas felt quiet.  There were things that we had previously done each and every year that were left undone.   Things were done that will probably only belong to Christmas 2012.  Each day, I did some small thing for Xavier.  An advent calendar in his memory.  Each day of December I spent time with memories, time with my cherished son.  I dedicated myself to him, to keeping his memory alive.  It seemed the only way I would live through Christmas.

This year is so different.  As if trying to make up for the traditions lost last year, we have immersed ourselves in Christmas.  There has been carolling and Christmas lights.   Decoration and present making.  There has been Christmas shopping at the actual shops (last year it was mostly done online).  There have been Santa photos taken.  Our house is full of singing.  The christmas tree seems more joyful.  Even the place in our house dedicated to Xavier seems a little brighter than last year.

And Xavier himself seems a little further away.   I do not want to repeat the latter months of 2012 – sometimes it is only in reflection that I can appreciate how truly dark those months were.  But, that pain did serve as a connection to Xavier.   The wound was open and weeping and he was there in such a visceral way.  He is still here, but his presence is quieter.  Perhaps overshadowed by the hustle and bustle.  He is in no way forgotten, but at times it feels like in leaving my pain behind, I have left him also.   There are times I imagine a tiny “mummy, what about me?” as I laugh with Elijah on my lap at Isaac singing carols at the top of his lungs.    And I have to remind myself, that Xavier is there – in Elijah’s smiles and Isaac’s giggles.

This Christmas I think of those facing their first December after loss.  It is truly one of the hardest times of the year.  The world around you so seemingly happy and you so sad and lonely.  Those that put on a brave face and continue in Christmas traditions for the sake of their living children – when all they want to do is hide and wake up in January.  Those that said good-bye to their only baby, confused and hurt, looking at “My First Christmas” onesies with tears in their eyes.  Those that have years of memories of Christmases with their child taken too soon – who feel their world shatter once again with each toy ad, every Christmas card, every department store Santa.

My first Christmas without Xavier was tear-stained but connected to him in a way that no other Christmas will be.  Even without him physically here, it truly was Xavier’s first Christmas.   It perhaps belonged to Xavier more than any of us.   If last year was almost exclusively about Xavier, this year is about our family.  Our three boys and each of their places in Christmas traditions.

For Christmas is a time of year when we can reflect on our loved ones – here and far away.   Each Christmas card I have received has acknowledged Xavier and the ones I (eventually!) write in return will also bear his name.  There are three stockings hung in our house – one for each son.  There are baubles and decorations for each of my babies hanging on the tree.  It is not a dedication to Xavier this year, but rather a family Christmas.  And Xavier is and always will be a part of our family.

Some of the ways I remembered Xavier last year.

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