Six Months

Dear Leah,

It is December 21, 2016. Today you would be six months old. If you were here, your dad and I would be relishing in this snowy-white December and celebrating each moment of our first holiday season with you. It still frustrates me to no end to see the rest of the world adorned with bright lights and festive cheer, impervious to my sadness and oblivious to your absence.

Indeed, with each passing week I become more painfully aware of the joy that seemingly surrounds me at every turn—other people’s joy, expressed by the smiles and laughter of those whose lives are untouched by tragedy. Lately it feels like I am existing in an invisible realm that is completely disconnected from these non-bereaved people, observing them from afar without the ability to comprehend or share in their happiness. Each day I stand alone, outside these parameters of joy, clinging tightly to my tear-filled memories of you.


Yet even in your absence, you remain my constant companion. I find myself overcome by a state of paralysis each time I catch a glimpse of a dark-haired baby in a crowded shopping center or a bundled-up toddler in the park. They make me wonder about the girl you would be growing into before my eyes each day, just as they remind me of all the experiences we have been so cruelly deprived of.

People often say that you are still with me in spirit, and some days I believe this to be true. Yet this sentiment does little to quell my aching arms that long to hold your living, breathing body. Still, I do find solace in any material relic that pays tribute to your life. This week I brought home a crystal angel ornament that I will hang in your memory each and every December in the years to come. It is a meager substitute for the ornament that I had hoped to purchase for your first Christmas this year, but I do draw comfort from its symbolic beauty. 


Likewise, the abstract notion that you continue to live on in my heart cannot possibly compensate me for the lifetime of memories we have been robbed of. I long to watch you fall asleep at night, to hold your warm skin against mine during late night feedings, and chuckle as you fuss and squirm during a diaper change. It cuts me deeply to think about all the hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s” that we will never get to share—so deeply that I occasionally wonder if it is possible to die of a broken heart.

It has been six months of a lifetime in which I will continue to ache for you, my firstborn daughter. Yet during my darkest grieving moments I remind myself that, if given the choice, I would do it all again. These days it seems the only resolution that brings me some semblance of peace is the knowledge that every moment of joy you brought me during our brief time together is worth the anguish that greets me with each new sunrise. I miss you, my darling girl, more than words can possibly say.

 All my love and a kiss,

Your Mama


Skipping Christmas

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

Before Leah’s death, I could only vaguely understand why a large faction of people who are culturally inclined to celebrate Christmas would dread the holiday season each December. At least in North America, the consumer spectacle that is Christmas is largely pitched as a time of family togetherness and wondrous childhood nostalgia. It thus stands to reason why those who are grieving will feel that each incessant decree to be merry and bright rips one more suture from their loss wound. For bereaved parents in particular, few things magnify their child’s absence more than the taunting images of happy, intact families that inundate television commercials and social media feeds as soon as the holiday season kicks off.


Memories of Christmas past

Needless to say, the holiday season that awaits me could not be more different from what I had envisioned and hoped for. My usual custom is to decorate our Christmas tree on the first Sunday of December, and if Leah was here, today would be filled with the gentle croons of carols playing, the smells of festive cookies baking, and countless moments of joy and laughter. I don’t think I can overstate how excited I was to spend this Christmas as part of a whole, completed family with my husband and daughter. Toward the end of my pregnancy in particular, I had frequently envisioned what my bumbling five-month-old girl would be like at this time, charming those around her with her coos and smiles while clumsily grasping at anything within reach.

And when those blue snowflakes start falling
That’s when those blue memories start calling
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas

However, rather than preparing the trimmings for my daughter’s first Christmas, this weekend I am grieving for all the Christmases that she will never get to experience. Instead of coaxing Leah to smile for a holiday photo and searching high-and-low for her first Christmas gifts, I have been bracing myself for what will likely be the most dreary December of my life. Rather than delve into my collection of beloved childhood movies and prepare cards to mail out to family and friends, I have been doing everything I can to pretend like Christmas is not happening at all—and believe me, this is no easy feat. As soon as December 1st made its dreaded presence known, suddenly there were no safe spaces in which I could retreat from the blood-thirsty Christmas behemoth. It seems that every grocery store, shopping center, and office lobby has become hostile territory with their festive lights, shiny tinsel, and unrelenting demands for holiday cheer.

I suppose the most daunting aspect of mapping out my personal holiday survival guide is the realization that Christmas will never again be an occasion that I can anticipate with pure feelings of joy. While my heartache may become less raw over time, Leah’s absence will surely be felt with every first snowfall and family gathering that future Decembers bring. And while I still hope that my Christmas mornings will eventually be filled with the pitter patter of tiny feet, there will always be an empty space under my tree where gifts for my firstborn daughter should sit, as well as a deafening silence where a dark-haired, green-eyed girl should be crawling into my bed, excitedly proclaiming: “Wake up, Mama! It’s Christmas!”

You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas

Blue Christmas lyrics © Demi Music Corp. D/B/A Lichelle Music Company. Songwriters: Billy Hayes/Jay W. Johnson.