What New Year means when your child has died

Missing your Baby with you this NewAs 2012 passed into 2013, there were many that assumed I would feel a sense of relief.  That I would be glad to turn my back on a horrific year and say good riddance to it. Like so many things in grief, it wasn’t that simple.

I was pregnant New Years Eve with Elijah and so 2013 held the promise of a new baby and healing. It also felt like leaving my son behind. As the only year he ever knew faded into history I felt another pang of loss. 2012 would forever be his. It would hold the two weeks of his life. It would hold the joy of his birth. It would hold the lovely, easy days of his pregnancy.  It would hold the devastation of his death. It would hold the day we said good-bye. It would hold my last days of naivety and innocence.

On the cusp of another New Year, my memories of him are fading a little. Still there, but yellowed around the edges, a little fuzzy. The sharpness has faded, the pain has dulled, but he feels further away. And that’s the thing about time. People will tell you that time will heal – and it will. But it also adds distance from your loved one. I might not hurt quite as much, but I don’t feel as close to him either. I do not miss the darkest days in grief – I have no desire to return to them. Yet, I do miss the intense closeness I felt to Xavier. That closeness was inextricably linked to the depth of pain I was feeling. I do not think it is healthy to cling to pain as way of connecting to your child who left too soon. I do think it’s important to find other connections – but for me those connections are associated with how I view Xavier now – a soul, a spirit, a presence. They are not connected with him as a tiny baby, beautiful and helpless in my arms. That connection belonged to 2012 and it is difficult to let go.

If you are moving into a new year without your darling baby in your arms, be gentle with yourself. It is yet another milestone on a long list of milestones. I was surprised that my first New Year without Xavier brought with it the same depth of emotion and confusion as Christmas. I had not expected it to affect me so deeply. That first Christmas felt empty without him. The first New Years felt like moving on without him.

If you are supporting a friend who has lost a loved one in 2014, please don’t assume that they are happy to move into a New Year with all its promise of new life and healing. When you have lost someone dear, you hold to all that reminds you of them.  You hold to things that surprise you. And no matter how devastating the events of the year may appear to you, it will also hold precious, precious memories that will be desperately clung to forever.

Time is a great healer, but it is also a thief – it dulls the pains and the memories in equal measure. There is grief in that too.

Be gentle with yourself this New Year.

The New Year

Last year I felt conflicted as the year changed. I had not expected it. I knew Christmas was going to be difficult and prepared myself but I was surprised by the gamut of emotions the change of year would bring. To say goodbye to 2012 was to say goodbye to the only year Xavier had ever known. The step into a new year felt like leaving him behind – a huge gulf of time ellipsed in a single moment. Throughout my grief I have been impatient for the next phase to start, for the pain to lessen and for healing – in that regard I was glad to leave the hurt of 2012 behind. Yet I could not bid the year “good riddance”. As much as it was the year that stole my son, it was also the year that gave him to me. It was a year that saw friends engaged and married. A year where other little ones with kinder futures were welcomed. There was still so much joy in that year. Newly pregnant, I was eager for the months to pass and the safe delivery of Xavier’s younger sibling. I was keen for the making of happier memories.
But even all of that felt like leaving Xavier behind and placing trust in an uncertain future. Last year, I stood on a precipice, took a deep breath and leapt.
One of the things I struggled with after Xavier’s death was that my happiest memories were behind me. That true joy would never visit me again. A dear and wise friend has said this about grief – the heart is the only vessel where the capacity for fullness is not diminished by its brokenness. And so it is. A broken heart can hold untold joy and love. I fact, a broken heart is an expanded heart. So if I feel utter joy, it is not because my heart is mended but rather its broken form holds more than it ever did before.
Now we stand on the precipice of another new year. A year I look forward to with hope in my heart and love in my soul. A year that will bring joy, and no doubt some tears. A year to laugh with my family, to kiss my boys and to hold them close. A year to learn, to embrace life and to spend time with those I treasure. Another year on this blessed earth. How wonderful. What a gift.