As I pull out the red and green storage box, I turn on the music. The bells jingle as the familiar Christmas tunes fill the room. Our beautiful green tree is ready to be filled with memories as we open the box full of ornaments. But, as I gently unwrap each sentimental piece, my eyes become misty. Yes, the holidays are a time for joy. But, it doesn’t matter how many years pass by, the Christmas season will always be difficult for me.
It’s supposed to be the best time of the year. With a childhood full of beautiful traditions, I couldn’t wait to pass down my favorite moments to my children. And 2013 was supposed to be that year. I was pregnant with triplets, due in October, and I pictured a chaotic December with my husband, balancing three babies with the spirit of the season. But that picture perfect month never arrived. Instead, my children were born in June, more than four months premature.
By the time our first Christmas arrived, my husband and I were left devastated. We found ourselves mourning the loss of two of our triplets and trying to be strong for our lone survivor, a medically fragile baby who spent her first holiday hooked up to oxygen. It wasn’t what we pictured. Bad things never happened to us. But, our dream of balancing three perfect babies would never be a reality. On Christmas morning, we celebrated our daughter. We opened her presents and smiled through the tears as we began our new normal. When our miracle baby napped, we cried. The tears fell for our two children in heaven, a grief no parent should ever have to experience.
As I learned in the weeks and months following our first Christmas, time doesn’t heal all wounds. I expected the grief to dissipate, but it became a steady part of our lives. You never get over the loss of a child, you simply learn how to live with that loss. It becomes part of your soul, a hollow piece of your heart serving as a reminder of the babies you never brought home. And while the grief can consume you, it doesn’t have to. Over the years I have found a beautiful balance of honoring my children in Heaven, while celebrating their sister here on earth.
As my daughter and I reached into the storage bin of ornaments, a familiar feeling sweeps over me. Anxiety, excitement and sadness swirl deep inside as the magic of Christmas unfolds before our eyes. My daughter begins to hang her favorite ornaments. Disney characters and ice cream ornaments cover the base of the tree at her four-year-old eye level. I hold my breath as I unwrap some of my prized possessions. Three sets of handmade booties are carefully placed together on the tree. Two glass ornaments are placed nearby. The words, “In Memory of Parker” and “In Memory of Abby” are front and center on our Christmas tree. The warm lights shine perfectly, as if our angels above are shining down on us.
The years may pass by and life moves forward, but we never forget our children who are no longer here. The holidays will always be difficult, but I no longer hold onto the guilt or spend hours dwelling on what could have been. These days, I join in the excitement watching our daughter experience the magic of the season. I smile as I watch her carry on special traditions I once enjoyed as a toddler and I laugh as we sing songs out of tune.
I have also learned that it’s OK to be sad. It’s OK feel pain and it’s normal to let the tears flow. Whether you’ve lost a child, a parent, or any loved one, the holidays are a difficult time of year. It’s hard to be full of joy when there is a sense of emptiness filling your heart. But as the season arrives, I try to picture happiness among the sadness. I imagine Parker and Abby dancing in our daughter’s dreams and I think of our angels on Christmas morning, celebrating with us in spirit. It’s been more than four years since I lost two of my children, yet I know the tears will flow this holiday season and every year after. Life isn’t perfect, but my family has found a peaceful balance between Heaven and Earth, and that’s all I could ever wish as we celebrate the holidays.