Saturday 24 December 2016

How I Handle the G-word at Christmas

Grief at Christmas. The big elephant in the room amongst friends and family at this time of year. It's generally a much harder time of year for grieving parents, me included. Any holiday tends to be difficult, as it is an enjoyable time with family and you imagine what it would be like if your child was in fact here enjoying it with you.

Stella's 1st Christmas
Holidays are a trigger. A reminder of what you should have. We should have a four year old happy go lucky girl, going to her school holiday pageant, making JK Christmas crafts, singing carols in a cute little voice, someone who is excited about Santa visiting our house. It would have been Stella's fifth Christmas, our third without her.

You try to include the missing person into the grieving family's festivities, by incorporating something into your traditions. Our family is still very young, this being Hudson's first Christmas he recognizes Santa and the Twins first. He does not quite fully understand what and why Santa visits our house, so I do not believe he will understand, nor do I necessarily want him to understand how we might incorporate this little girl he often hears about, into our Christmas.
Stella met Santa on several occassions that first year
Although it is important for me to keep her memory alive, so we don't forget (nobody quite frankly), I must be mindful of the fragility of my other children, who are too young to understand. There will come a time when we can explain who Hudson's missing sister is to him. It is okay that he doesn't know her, for now, as he will hopefully gain greater happiness by her memory as opposed to upset, once he can understand. I feel it's too much for an emotional, developing and growing mind to handle such great thoughts, even though I'd love to share every single thing about his big sister with him.

Until then, we will continue to hang our photo ornaments of Stella on our tree. Hudson and the Twins will probably only notice the sparkling of the ornaments. One day they may ask "who is that little girl?" I may need to prepare for that day earlier than expected.

Our Stella ornaments, some years they may be hidden on the tree and others hanging on the mantle
 The other tradition I do at many holidays, is purchase hugs and kisses candy from Stella to our family, to have on our coffee table. A tiny treat as a reminder of her sweetness and the hugs and kisses we are missing. My mom also makes her famous Stella cookies, a star sugar cookie, that our family usually devours before dinner time.

Although it is a very difficult and upsetting time to have one less stocking hung on the fireplace mantle, I want the holidays to be a happy time for our family. There are so many days of the year that I think of Stella and miss her terribly, but I want to actively make our lives happy ones. I feel I can still do this without diminishing the love we have for her, her memory or honouring her as part of our family.
One year we hung our ornaments on the mantle for all to see
I heard of a wonderful idea recently that I'd like to start in the coming years. We have been very fortunate over the years and I'd like to ensure my children understand the meaning of giving at Christmas as opposed to receiving. I love the idea of purchasing gifts for the same aged little girl as Stella, who is in need. We will be able to not only bring joy to this girl but we will be able to imagine what Stella may have wanted for Christmas that year, visually see how big she would be by purchasing clothes and what a girl her age enjoys. It is important for my children to understand that although we are very unlucky to have lost our family member, we are so fortunate to have the means to enjoy so many other things in life and we have eachother. It won't bring her back or make up for what Stella would have brought to our family but it's something positive.

I would do anything to get "a Stella" for Christmas.

I wish I didn't have to think about how I will handle explaining the death of a sibling, my children will never know. I wish life could be simple. I wish it could be an easy one where I wouldn't worry about the common fever turning into a seizure or the mild fever Stella had the weekend she passed away. The mild fever like many other children her age seem to have leading up to their death, which remains unexplained.  I wish my children could sleep without me worrying constantly. I wish my children didn't have to experience death as part of our family. So many wishes that may not be granted.
Stella and Santa at her second Christmas a few months before she left us

One positive, although it was very difficult for us to essentially start our family over again, is that we had no children at the time of Stella's passing. We had no explanations or anyone to worry about other than ourselves. And because we don't blame anyone for her death and don't regret the care we gave Stella and cherished the times we shared while she was here, I think our grief has been easier than if the latter.

But how does a family who lost a child truly feel at Christmas?

We are still only a few years into our grief and although doing very well, we are still navigating our way through our feelings. I feel a little lost and my head still has trouble coming to grips with the fact that she is gone. I don't think as a Mom your head can ever fully understand that your child is gone and your heart never will either. It's weird because at times it feels as though Stella was here a forever ago, usually when I'm busy and well rested. And there are other times were the wound of her passing is still very fresh. 
Our first Christmas with Hudson and without Stella
I always feel like the other glove will drop at any given time. Something else is going to happen. Why couldn't it, we've experienced such horrible luck, 1 in 100,000.  Spending lovely family time at Christmas is a reminder of the time we spent on Family Day in 20014 hours before Stella died. I toggle between being hyper sensitive to everything having to do with my children's health to the total opposite where I figure it can't happen again and I let things simply happen in an oblivious manner. If something is going to happen, it will and I know I am helpless and will have to let it happen. It's a freakishly odd sense of relief; if that makes any sense at all?

Feelings are heightened at Christmas. Everything I see from little girls clothing  to family portraits with a little girl Stella's age it extremely difficult. I'm constantly thinking about Stella and wishing things were different but that's my everyday reality. I try not to let it overtake and effect the amazing times I have with my children who are here with me. They deserve that.
This years Christmas photo
Our family has changed so much since she's been gone that I can't imagine it any other way. We've surpassed her young age with Hudson and we are coping with new parenting issues and skills we haven't used before. Christmas and holidays will always be a huge reminder of what is missing in our life but I hope to make it a positive opportunity to help my children grow in understanding death someday and hopefully bring something wonderful to others. As Stella was such a wonderful little person!

Grief is never packaged up perfectly in a little tiny box under the Christmas tree. It changes in shape, day to day and year to year. Some years it will be the box at the back of the tree and others it may be the gigantic box jumping out at the foot of the tree.

We will take a Stella under our tree any day!
For now, grief will remain the G-word in this house, covertly hovering over my life but seamlessly integrated into and my children's through me. Although it is tightly intertwined, I know I can separate my grief from the memory of my beautiful daughter for my family's sake until the time is right. Until then, I am so grateful and blessed for what we do have, eachother.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours here on earth and from the heavens above!


  1. So well written! Very sad indeed for all, and I think you have some good coping mescanisms inplace. Love and hugs to your beautiful family xxxx

  2. Aww, your babies look so cute and the way you have dressed them up is super amazing. I love the idea of dressing them according to the Christmas theme

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