After 5 Thanksgivings without one of my children, I have learned so much of what I wish I never had to know. Such as, that living without him on any given day is brutally painful, and each day I must do it all over again. As hard as ‘normal’ everyday-days are, the holidays are exponentially worse and that fact has not changed. The ache cuts deeper and it’s a form of loneliness only a parent of loss can understand. The hole in our lives feels darker and harder to walk around this time of year. By contrast, the frenzy and celebrations of the world around us seem to magnify our loss. The more joyous the world is, the more lonely ours feels.
We have tried Thanksgiving in 4 different ways over the last years and not one has made it any more tolerable than another. This year I opted for denial. Plain old classic denial. It’s not Thanksgiving if I don’t say so. With Aiden celebrating with the angels, one of his brothers not able to get home, and absolutely nothing resembling Thanksgiving going on here, I decided it was not going to be Thanksgiving. Period.
I think my husband thought I was kidding at first, but I wasn’t. No cooking and preparations to do, no turkey roasting in the oven, no herbaceous aroma or our children’s voices wafting through the house, no pecan pie resting on the counter.
With just the 3 of us here, it seemed perfectly logical that today could be just like a typical Saturday with a visit from our first-born. So we went to our favorite 9am spin class, walked the dogs afterwards like we always do and then got dressed to go to an early dinner with our son and a couple special friends. Not Thanksgiving, just dinner out. The sight of my oldest boy walking in the back door is all I needed for the day, and that is how I got through it intact.
Denial. Distraction. Deflect.
Any way, within reason, parents choose to grieve through a holiday should be their choice and embraced. There are no rules in child loss- especially at the holidays. A lot of us don’t want to witness the commercialized mahem of Christmas anyway. It’s repugnant. The memory of the magic, the music, the gift buying that doesn’t include your child-all of it can be so terribly painful. We get through it however we can and that often means declining events and parties, staying out of malls and generally laying low. Laying low hurts less.
It’s not that we aren’t thankful or don’t want to celebrate Jesus. Quite the opposite. When you lose what matters most in your life, when you lose your very heart, you learn to be profoundly grateful for what remains. Our perspective of the birth of Jesus has been wittled down to the only part of Christmas that truly matters, it’s most essential core- that Jesus was born so that we would have eternal life with Him, God the Father and all of our loved ones who believe. That’s it.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. -John 3:16
Jesus’ birth and eventual death and resurrection is our hope. That is what we are thankful for and that is what we celebrate. Our celebration may be more somber and reverent but it is a celebration to the core of our being.
A raw and desperate gratitude for our hope, because it is our knowledge and acceptance that this agonizing seperation from our child may be long in days and years, but it is temporary.
We will hold him again.
Our gratitude lies in the manger.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
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