I have a question for you... This would have been Aiden's first Christmas. Other than decorating his burial site with a tree, my husband and I will pretty much be skipping this holiday season. After Lucy died, how did you do it? It's still only October and I can't even think of November and December without crying (granted it has only been a little over 2 months since Aiden died). We're planning on donating to pregnancy &; infant loss charities in lieu of presents this year and are asking others to do the same for us. I know our situations are a bit different because you had B, but what were your holiday's like? Thanks Ang
It is a good question, and one I kept asking before hitting my first holidays too. But I guess I asked it when hitting everything, "How do I go through my first baby shower? Or Christmas? Or Thanksgiving? Or New Years? Or question about my children?" The first year is so fucking hard. If the entire year was full of perfect days, 70 degrees, all the green lights on the way to your favorite places with no holidays, it would still be the worst year of your life. Or at the very least, one of the worst years.
When it pisses down rain, and jackasses are cutting you off and the market bagging girl asks you when you are due and then says, "Oh" and then flashes the checkout girl a knowing, annoyed look at your honesty and obvious buzz-killing when you tell her your baby just died and you are only there to buy canned pumpkin to make a pie for Thanksgiving with the cousins who couldn't even muster an "I'm sorry" and are also pregnant with their third child, well, the holidays can suck.
The first year is just hard. Everyday living is just hard. Holidays, anniversaries, the same day of the week your child died and everything else out of the routine feels downright absurd. Hitting everything the first time is impossibly tender, and you also have no precedent on how it is going to be. You have no prior experience of Christmas grief, so you spend months of build up wondering what the event/holiday/baby shower/birthday/party is actually going to be like. The anticipation of horribleness is almost as hard, if not harder, than the day. Fear of the unknown has always been a particularly hard thing for me to face. I don't think I am alone in that.
Two months out is so raw. I know it feels like you have been grieving for a very long time. And you have. Two months might well be two years. Everyone says this, and I hated hearing it when I was two months out, but grief changes. I'm not saying it gets better. I'm not saying you will heal. But it changes, and so though this Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's might be completely awash in very raw, aching, horrible grief, it might not be that way every year. I don't know if that is comforting or annoying to hear, but I am only saying it, because one thing that helped me was knowing that maybe I wouldn't always be angry, or difficult or find Christmas unbearable. The moments when grief captures me, beats me up, drives me into the ground, keeps me housebound for days, are the moments I was least expecting. In that way, holidays are times I expect my grief to appear. I worried over it. Toiled even. So I wove time around grief, and it generally ended up being better than I expected.
Lucy died three days before Christmas, so actually last Christmas we were hitting her first birthday, and it was technically our second Christmas without Lucy. My first Christmas without her, 2008, I woke to my milk coming in, being horribly engorged and aching. And the funeral director called to tell us he cremated Lucy the night before. I had wrapped Christmas presents for her weeks earlier, anticipating her birth around the holidays. I had a stocking with some little toys I bought for her. That was terrible, opening them, integrating them into Beezus' toys. Everything about that day was terrible. I think having an older child made it easier to compartmentalize grief for a few hours while gifts were being opened and Santa yarns were being spun. I didn't want to ruin Christmas for her, but after two hours of not crying, grief exploded on me like a tsunami, and all of the sudden I was inconsolable despite myself. I basically stayed under the covers and took boiling hot bath after bath after bath. I was tender. Very tender.
Last year, my internet friends got together and sent me a little rosemary Christmas tree and each person handmade, or bought, an ornament for Lucy's tree. I cannot even tell you what that meant to me. It overwhelmed me and made me feel very loved. Some days it was actually too overwhelming and I wouldn't look at the mail. Other days, we were so excited to have another remembrance of her. I actually made a video, you can watch here. This year, I am going to hang all those ornaments on our big tree, which we decorate mostly with ornaments that I made. Having Lucia be part of our holidays feels right and important. We also celebrate Santa Lucia's day, which is a week before her death day and solstice. We integrate a lot of rituals into our lives in association with grief. That works for our family.
What I did do last year, and will do this year, and will probably do for the rest of my life, is budget grief into my schedule of the holidays. I have told everyone in my family that Christmas is just for us to grieve. No grandparents. No aunt and uncles. No second cousins twice removed. We get together with them, instead on Christmas Eve, and somehow that is doable. The atmosphere is more adult somehow. It is nighttime, so we have wine and make stromboli and exchange presents with my family. Then everyone goes home by 8p. We can curl up together on Christmas morning. We don't ignore grief in our family unit. We cry and grieve in front of our children and talk about Lucy, death, depression, grief and sadness very openly. Just having that normal talking about grief relieves us from always having to explain what this grief is when it rears its ugly head. We often just look at the other person and know they are having a Lucy moment. Anyway, we take our time opening presents. We stay in our pajamas all day. That worked really well for us last year. Sam likes making a big breakfast, so he did that. We watched documentaries all day and ate nothing but carrots and hummus for dinner. We cried here and there, and looked at pictures of her. All in all, the week of her birthday and Christmas was a week both filled with lots of joy, cathartic crying and lots of grief. I have no idea what this Christmas will be, but I feel good right now about it, excited about Christmas music and baking and all the smells of the season. And strangely, I am even looking forward to touching grief's tender spots in me. I don't deluge cry much anymore, and I know I will then.
From what I know of you, Angie, I do know that you are generous and loving, and that channeling your grief by donating presents and doing something sounds like an amazingly compassionate way to deal with grief. Last year, I read about Doing Good in Her Name. I read Kristin's blog and saw that she was collecting specific items for newborns. I went to Babies R Us and took the list, and just bought all kinds of things. Far from being sad, it was really cathartic. I came home having spent WAY more than I wanted and told my husband that this was his and Beatrice's Christmas present to me, and in that way, I sat on Christmas morning imagining those things being used for a family with their own child. I'm not sure we have the financial means to do the same thing this year. I might be forgoing presents just so Beezus and Thor get some, but it is a great cause.
Also, don't be afraid to ask your friends, internet friends, family and yourself to do something that would lift you. Like an ornament exchange, art swap or a little gift exchange with other babylost ornaments. One thing you might want to do is make ornaments with your babylost friends baby's names, and they make ones with Aiden's name, and you create a tree for him. The only advice I would suggest is budget in grief and say no to things. There is no right way to do this. Get through in whatever way feels comforting.
Just know that there are those of us out here--I am very much that person--who will sit with your grief, if you are feeling alone. I will listen. Just email me anytime. This goes for any one of you reading along who needs a friend this holiday, or just wants to talk to someone who gets it when the going gets rough. Email me and I will send you my phone number even.
If I think of a better one, I will ask it later. But for now, what size shirts are your kids currently wearing? And what are they going to be for Halloween?-Here We Go AJen
Beezus is in 4-5T or small in big girl clothes. And Thor is currently in 18 months. Yes, he is about to turn seven months. And for Halloween. Thor is going to be a little skeleton, and Beezus is going to be a witchy witch, or Supergirl, or a kitty cat, again. She is currently wearing her witchy costume, so I am going with that.
I am cheating on the one question- one link, but more than one question.
I actually love James Lipton and the Actor's Studio in all his melodramatic glory. And I love these questions.
1. What is your favorite word? I really like the word Twig.
2. What is your least favorite word? Horny. It is so 70s porn. It grosses me out.
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Humility, humor and capability.
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Defensiveness and unwarranted arrogance.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Rain.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Metal scraping ice.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Cock.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Advice Columnist.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Lawyer.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Sorry about all that down there. You were right. About it all. Come on in. Here is your bourbon.”
For my question, I would like to hear more about your 18 month old arch nemesis. -Here We Go AJen
yes... Who is this evil 18 month old? -Angie
I, too, am very curious about this 18-month-old Moriarty. -erica
If I called an eighteen month old an asshole, I'm pretty sure the internet would turn against me. I actually always call squirrels assholes, and here is why. When I grow tomatoes in my backyard, the squirrels pick them one by one, take a bite, then discard the WHOLE FUCKING TOMATO on the ground. Then they sit on the fence and watch me lose my mind. I mean, come on. That is a total asshole move. Just eat the fucking tomato. I mean, if the squirrel ate the tomato, I would simply call him a greedy bastard. But just taking one bite...geesh. In many ways, the eighteen-month old pulls a squirrel move every Music Class.
He is tottering genius who is pretending not to be able to talk or listen to adults while conspiring to give my children continual viruses. He actually isn't "evil". He is
I generally am not a germaphobe. But the kid has a perpetually runny nose and a nasty, croup-y cough, and has taken to being fascinated with everything that belongs to Thor. Rattles. Baby gnome. Toys. His shoes. His grandmother/nanny (I can't figure out which she really is) does nothing to prevent him from coming over to our stuff, grabbing it, sucking on it, licking it, humping it, and then stuffing it right into Thor's face before I can stop him. Everyone goes "Aaaawwwww, he likes the baby" while he is handing the "baby his toys". "So sweet" they coo after him, but what I see is a germy, disgusting toy pre-sucked by a kid with a horribly nasty cough stuffed into the mouth of my six month old. I really don't want to discipline another person's kid. I don't want to have to watch after him always. I don't want to use my nice, inside June Cleaver voice to say, "No, no, Genius Child, don't put that in the baby's face." I want to enjoy music class with my children without wondering where Patient X is and what is the next virus he is handing out to our household. And I really really really don't want to cart my anti-bacterial crap to the circle, because then who looks like the asshole? Yes. Me.
Here is the point where he crossed being a little annoying snotty kid to being my arch nemesis. One morning, when I was happily enraptured in singing, "Hey Lolly Lolly Lolly" , I turn around and this kid is pulling everything out of my diaper bag, and sucking on Beezus' juice. Blaaargh!! Were you raised by gypsies, Shortie? He effectively licked everything we own before I realized it. And cloth things. Anyway, yeah, so since it seems like he is basically trying to drive me type A insane, he has become my arch nemesis spreading ebola to my children. Did I mention I have been sick with a hacking horrible virus all week? Yeah. Totally the wee Arch Nemesis. I need a good Arch Nemesis name for him. This week, he somehow managed to break the circulating fan, draw blood from the music teacher, and send a huge cardboard poster of Noah's Ark into the middle of my back.
I have a bruise.