As I've mentioned in the past, the anticipation of the holidays - especially the firsts without a loved one - is worse than the actual holiday.
Leading up to Christmas, I had no idea what the day would hold emotionally for everyone. I knew that I would be okay because I would be distracted by Collen. This was our third Christmas without Ayden. The first and second were super, super hard. I fought back tears and held a lump in my throat through the entire day both years. This year, Collen kept us so distracted, it was hard to focus on the loss we were feeling. But it was there. When we gathered together as a family and I looked at Collen playing...imagining the 2 and a half year old who should be there also...running around...excited about Christmas and spending time with family. I never forget that there should be another excited child in the room....never.
My dad's absence was greatly felt. When it came time for the blessing for our meal at my grandma's (my dad's family), my dad always spoke the prayer. This year, my uncle stepped in - as it should be - and through tears and a broken voice (and heart), he spoke a beautiful prayer over the family. Candles were lit in memory of our loved ones in heaven. It was hard to see that extra candle on the table this year - my father's candle. Not hearing his voice, his laughter....not seeing him with Collen...was very, very hard. But like I said, Collen was a great distraction for all of us. We had to be strong and watching the joy on his face was enough to keep us joyful and mindful of our blessings despite our pain. I "heard" my dad there with my family as my uncle responded to Collen's jibber-jabber with "You did?!" - my dad ALWAYS said that to Ayden and Collen when they would coo...or speak that baby jibberish. I sat next to my uncle purposefully. I needed to feel the presence of a big, daddy body next to mine. I needed to loop my arm through his, as I would my dad, to help me feel closer to him again...especially at Christmas. My uncle is a lot like my dad in demeanor and even stature...so it helped (if that makes sense...hope it does). We all had our moments where we broke - and that was okay. It helps me to see others hurting. I know that sounds terrible, but don't misunderstand my meaning here. When I looked over and saw my cousin crying....knowing that his dad's sadness and tears (my uncle) triggered his tears...triggered the loss he feels...it helps me to see that because it shows me that they miss him, too. My mom,my grandma, my uncles, my sister, DJ, Jeremy, and myself aren't the only ones missing him. The extended family members miss him...neighbors miss him...friends miss him...people he met a handful of times miss him. It just helps to know he is not forgotten. Just as I've said in the past with Ayden - it would hurt me more to feel like people forgot him. And people continue to remind me that Ayden is not forgotten. And my dad won't be forgotten either.
Collen's Christmas was filled with family, fun, too many gifts to count (he is absolutely blessed beyond belief!), joy, laughter, and so many smiles. It warmed my heart to spend this Christmas with him. Last Christmas he was 4 months old. I was excited but full of fear. 4 months will forever be a milestone of fear for me - it's the one Ayden missed by 2 days. We thought we were in the clear. We thought we were past the "peak" time for SIDS. And like most parents, we thought it could never happen to us. Last year, I was operating on auto-pilot...surviving...praying fervently for each day to come and go and allow me to keep my baby. We have now seen a 2nd Christmas with Collen. This Christmas was much more relaxed. I allowed myself to enjoy it and revel in the twinkle in his little eyes on Christmas morning. Even if he didn't really understand, he knew he was surrounded by those who love him most in the world (and in Heaven...I believe his big brother, PaPa, and Great PaPa and Grandpas were there, too.) I made it a point to fully immerse myself in this experience with Collen. 1. because I didn't want to wallow in what we were missing. I wanted to dwell on our blessings and all the joy we still have in our lives. 2. I know better than most that I'm not promised another day with my child. So, I make it a point to do my best to never take a single second for granted. It can be gone in the blink of an eye.
My mindset has evolved over the past 2 and a half years. Yes, I miss Ayden. More than anyone could ever imagine. He is my first born, and I will forever share a bond with him that I won't share with any of our other children. I was his mother first. I felt his kicks and jabs first. I loved him first (don't confuse that with "most" because I love he and his brother equally and just as fully). I found my purpose as a mother through Ayden, and I am a better mother today because of him. And my heart was shattered when he had to leave my world. I have experienced the entire realm of grief....and have gone through the cycle numerous times. I find that now, I am a point where I can say, "I'm okay." I know that Ayden is safe. I know that he is okay. I know that I will be with Ayden again. He's waiting for me, and each passing day is one more step closer to him. My purpose, now, is not to dwell in the loss and the grief, but to live my life so that I can be joined with him again...and so that his brother and future siblings (if there are to be any) will also join him in Heaven. This life is full of loss. I don't like it. It's hard to accept. But, if you're able to find hope...you can face loss head on knowing that it is only temporary. Ayden isn't gone forever. My dad isn't gone forever. We have only been separated for a short time. If I look at it that way, facing the hard days here aren't so daunting.
I hope you all had a blessed Christmas. I know that many of you had difficult holidays due to loss and missing loved ones. I pray that you find comfort in your memories and that you are able to find hope to help you through. God bless.