Christmas of 2013 was a season that shaped me forever. As the lights were beginning to twinkle, the cards being written, and the trees cut, we lost our first daughter. As quickly as she entered the world, she left. I was reduced to ashes, small little pieces of a broken mama, unsure where to start. My arms longed for her, my heart full and empty at the same time.
I was deliberate in my grieving. With the intentional practice of giving myself space to feel, my heart started to change. As Christmas approached, I felt desperate for happiness. That Christmas season was a struggle for my heart between what I had lost and what I still dare hope for.
Terrified of betraying my lost daughter, I dared to long for normalcy. I was full of guilt. I felt responsible, but I couldn’t say why. I was longing to focus on something outside of the pain, but I didn’t feel I deserved to move on. I had no one to ask if what I was feeling was normal.
This Christmas season, I want to share what I needed to hear back in 2013. I wish I could go back and tell myself what I share below. If you feel like I’m speaking to you, meeting you where you are, know this: you have a right to everything you are feeling. You are a brave woman. There is so much you deserve.
You have the right to be still
You have the right to stillness, internally and externally. The holiday season is characteristically packed, but grief is a consuming process. Some days, you may feel empty. Know this: you don’t have to do anything. You have been through something bigger than the heart can hold. Grief is a journey without a predefined route. Even at Christmas time, the world can wait. Make space for your emotions. Don’t worry if the cards don’t get sent, or if the baking doesn’t get done, or if the tree isn’t trimmed. The season of life you are in is draining. But know it won’t always be like this.
You have the right to grieve
Sadness does necessary work to heal the heart, and what you are going through is a very sad thing. Lean intentionally into it the tears when they come. Let the release of the pent up sorrow cleanse you. Breathe deeply, feel it all. Let grief do work in you, even if it isn’t a good time for everyone around you. Buy yourself the prettiest notebook you can find and write letters to your baby. Carry tissues with you everywhere. If you need space, ask. Don’t be surprised if something random triggers you. You do not have to wear a mask. You are important. Your feelings are valid. You are to be respected.
You have the right to connection
The people who love you want to help you, but people cannot fix grief. If you are ready to connect with those around you, accept whatever good sounding thing comes your way. Contrary to what you may have internalized, you don’t deserve to be alone. What happened is so painfully isolating. If you feel up to it, go to that party. Watch that movie. Don’t feel obligated to do too much, but also, don’t feel obligated to do anything. You have the right to human connection.
You have the right to laughter
It may feel like it’s been so long since you’ve really laughed. Happiness may lead you to feel that you are dishonoring your baby. Nothing could be further from the truth. You will find things funny again, and you are not expected to hide from joy. Let your soul breath. You have suffered so much. You are not degrading your loss by embracing your blessings that remain. Similar to tears, laughter does wonders for the heart. Your baby wants you to be happy.
You have the right to peace
A constantly unsettled existence is an undeserved burden too big to bear. You loved your baby, and you love them still. You would have done anything to fix them. Your baby knew love. You should not continue to punish yourself. When you find yourself sitting in stillness and feeling calm, stay there. Find little moments in your day to grant yourself space. Breathe deeply, and embrace all that you have lived through. Accept peace as it comes, because with time, it will.
At this magical time of year, you may wonder if you are betraying your loss by celebrating your blessings. You may worry that people expect you to get over it, and they might. You may worry that people expect you to stay in mourning, and they might. However, it does not matter what they think: you know your heart. Know with total certainty how much your baby felt love from you.
You did a great job.
Rest confidently in the fact that even though you are not with your baby now, you will be someday. You will be reunited, and when that happens, you’ll never be apart again. Ever. The gift to humanity thousands of years ago, the one we celebrate the season for, guarantees you will be with your baby again.
So, mama, you are loved.
Your baby was lucky to have you, and they still are.
You did such a great job.