For the Children's Memorial Garden being built in Rapid City, I was asked to write briefly about Lachlan in a "feature the children" series. (To see more on that Memorial Garden click here) Here's what I wrote:
“As Advent is here and Christmas approaches, the ever-present sting of your absence sharpens. My heart aches at missing the opportunity to see your eyes dance as you run to the arms of Santa to tell him your wish of presents. I feel the emptiness of what should be your space in our home. Yet, even in the sorrow and the sting, there is a bigger joy and hope. My soul dances at the thought of you running eagerly to the arms of Jesus…not for presents, but for His presence. Perfect Christmas joy, peace, laughter, and celebration in the place we will ultimately call home together. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas here scurrying to buy all the perfect presents, I am reminded that our bigger preparation is for the perfect and eternal gift of our ever-present Christ and the joy, hope, peace and love that is perfect in Him.
Christmas without him wasn't always a place of hope, peace and joy.
Reading through what I had to say this year, highlights for me how much my grief has transformed with time. Hope, peace, and joy have re-emerged slowly over the years, so gradually that it almost goes unnoticed. Like the sun that slowly rises and the light that gradually returns. The change is imperceptible moment to moment, but then all at once, you realize the day has come. Now, nearly 10 years later, my grief is softer than it once was. The joy that I feel now wasn't always there, and the hope I describe used to feel light years away. While I still miss Lachlan every day, and especially at Christmas, it's not like it was that first Christmas...or the several after that. In that first Christmas without him the joy was nowhere to be found. I felt some obligation to paint a happy face, to somehow try to find a way to have some Christmas cheer, to let my toddler have a "normal" Christmas even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. I couldn't do it and I felt torn. I hadn't yet learned to be happy and sad. I didn't know those opposites could co-exist. I had to take that heap of emotions and learn to let it be. Learn to be ok with a different kind of Christmas, to do what I could, and not beat myself up over the things that I couldn't. When we fight our painful experiences, we make it harder on ourselves! Like in labor, in those moments of excruciating pain, you can fight it with your whole body and mind; or you can let it be, breathe through it, hang on for the ride, and know that it won't always be like this.
If this is your first Christmas without your child...let it be. Let it be whatever it is. Maybe some shared happiness, maybe mostly sad, maybe too hard to acknowledge, maybe it's going through the motions of a "normal" Christmas, maybe it's not doing any of it. Maybe it's starting a new Christmas tradition and finding a way to acknowledge the empty space. Maybe it's not planning anything and just getting through the day as it comes. However it is this Christmas, it's ok to let it be. It won't always be like this. It will soften and one day you'll look back and find the grief and the joy of the season have woven themselves together to create something new and beautiful.