I used to love putting up our family Christmas tree. It was my favorite time of year. But a lot can change in one moment.
Kate's due date was Dec. 29th, and I was totally jazzed at the idea of our normal holiday hustle and bustle +PLUS+ a baby on the way! I giggled as I pictured myself trying to circumnavigate our tree, awkwardly stringing lights with my giant belly.
When it was confirmed we had lost her, I sobbed and watched that silly Christmas tree vision vanish with her. All that remained was an empty belly and a broken heart. Tree decorating would never be the same.
My counselor suggested finding a way to include Kate in our Christmases going forward. "Maybe an ornament to hang in her honor?" I immediately latched onto this idea, grateful my emotions were validated when she could have easily said, "Happens all the time - you should move on and focus on the family you have." I went ornament shopping that afternoon and found the perfect one.
Fast forward to this year. We finally decorated last night, and for the 9th year in a row I cried as I placed her ornament on our tree. It doesn't get any easier to unwrap that treasure, but I would never ever NOT hang Kate's cross. She is still very much a part of our family and thus our Christmas traditions.
As much as it hurts to uncover her ornament after a year of being tucked away, I always go to bed at peace. This small symbol allows me to feel like her spirit is here with us, like we haven't forgotten her. It reminds me we're celebrating The One who holds my darling baby girl until I can see her for the first time. What a blessing to have this HOPE!
I felt led to share this part of my story with you, Friend, because I know there are other Mommies who have walked this journey of grief and are struggling to find JOY during the holiday season. Maybe you are that Mommy.
Thanks to an organization called Gathering Hope, I'm learning to embrace the notion that grief and joy can coexist. That it's okay to hang Kate's ornament and weep for what is lost, and then turn right around and laugh at my kids - my two miracles on Earth - for hanging 30 more in the same cluttered section.
Whether your loss was at 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 days after bringing them into this world, please know you are not alone in your sorrow. Not at Christmas. Not ever. There are so many of us standing with you. And - believe it or not - someone else is always by your side. His name - Emmanuel - literally means "God is with us." I truly believe He is, and I hope and pray you find peace in His arms tonight.
With great love,