I try not to compare levels of grief. It’s not healthy in either direction, and it certainly doesn’t result in healing progress. But sometimes I think about all the people I’ve met who’ve lost their children after spending days, weeks, months, even years with their children before having to say goodbye, for whatever reason.
And I hurt for them.
Benjamin is missing in a lot of ways, but all of those ways are only imagined. We were so excited that he was due right before all the holidays, and we imagined how wonderful it would be to have that first year with him. Starting with Halloween.
His Halloween costume–an owl “sleep” sack–is hanging in the back of Paisley’s closet. I’ve thought about giving it away or lending it to someone, but it stays in the closet, having never been worn, the tags still attached, collecting dust.
Benjamin would have been adorable in it. But it’s a costume that he never touched, never wore, doesn’t smell like him. It doesn’t even hang in a closet full of his clothes. It makes me hurt for the parents who have had to pack away their child’s worn clothes–ones attached to memories and moments and events that actually took place.
I think about how it feels at Thanksgiving. Benjamin would have sat right there, across from his sister. But it stops there. I’m not looking at a vacant seat he used to fill. I don’t have to remind myself–ever–to set one less place at the table. Not at regular meals and not on Thanksgiving. I don’t think of how it used to be, just how it could have been. Again, I feel that aching pain for the parents who are counting one less plate for the table than they did the year before, or the year before that, or the year before that.
Christmas is here. I count off how old he would have been–something I do pretty regularly. Two years and three months by now. And think about what he’d be like. What kinds of gifts would we have given him? Would he start to “get” Christmas this year, just a little bit? What would he look like now? What would he be like? Oh, how I wish he could be here in the morning. It would have been his third Christmas.
But he won’t be there, and the light that is Paisley will undoubtedly chase that shadow away. It probably won’t even hurt in the morning–it will just be that familiar ache I always feel, one that can only be described as always feeling a little bit hungry or a little bit thirsty or both.
Maybe even better described by the way some of my pregnancy cravings with Oliver are going these days. There’s something I want, and I want it BAD, but I can’t quite figure out what it is. The difference being that I know exactly what it is, but I also know I can never have it.
Just to digress a little bit more, this continues to be a perfectly boring and normal pregnancy–just the way we like it. We’re about 25 weeks now, and he’s kicking away as I type.
Back to my Christmas Eve ramblings…
We miss him, but he’s not missing, if that makes any sense. Our grief is not compounded by memories outside of the night he was born. Tonight, I’m thinking of those who will notice one less excited voice in the morning, one less pair of feet running down the hall, one less person at breakfast, one less phone call from wherever they lived. Whether this is your first Christmas without them or your 20th, be gentle with yourselves. Breathe deeply. Talk about it if it helps. Know that you are strong. Even though you didn’t ask for this pain, even though you have no choice but to be strong, you are.
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