I brushed off Thanksgiving but have found myself in an emotional tailspin as Christmas approaches. Christmas is my favorite. I am flailing about and throwing my arms and legs out hoping to catch something to help slow down the torrent of pain that seems to attach itself to this holiday.
At the risk of sounding a tad cliche, holidays are time for family. Set aside for reflection and a reminder to give thanks for the people who surround you but now holidays are hard. For most of us there is an empty spot at the table and one less gift under the tree. There are a million reasons to miss the people no longer earth side and those reasons tend to sneak up and throat punch you, right about now.
The first inclination of how bad Christmas would hurt is when I noted all the specially, monogrammed stockings at Lollys house. All lined up, in my moms winter wonderland, are large red stockings with all of her grandbabies, with the exception of Piper. Now I feel it very important to tell everyone that my people never leave Piper out of the head count or conversations. No one flinches as I casually discuss her or randomly appear red eyed and puffy. Many a time do I find one of them crying in silent remembrance of our baby. But man the missing stocking sent an abrupt reminder of how our first daughter will not be here at Christmas, or ever. I cried, my mom cried.
I thought a good way to spread Christmas cheer would be to drop some holiday goodies off at the NICU that cared for our Birdie. I had been a tad fearful that it might stir up my always present anxiety but grinchy old grief had a different idea. Pulling in to that parking lot, I was flooded with what it felt like to walk out of that hospital in my mismatched PJs, belly still soft, without Piper. I remember the shirt I was wearing and that my shoes were untied. That I couldn't take off my hospital band because it somehow linked me to her. I sat in my car reliving those details until I could pep talk myself in to the hospital. The gift made it in there but I probably frightened the nice girl who accepted it with my Rudolph nose.
Despite all the tears and the pending holiday, time has gifted me strength and an improved self awareness to appreciate where we are in life. Last Christmas, I had set up camp in a deep, dark hole of depression. My anxiety hit a climax with a medication worthy panic attack on Christmas Day. We were trudging reluctantly towards another year, our first year without Pipes. I now reveal in the light and am genuinely happy as new version of myself. Happy. A word I thought was lost to me. A feeling that was so foreign I could not even accurately name it when it slowly crept back in. The darkness still comes and threatens to be all consuming but I have the tools to grieve and live my best life simultaneously. If that's not something to be thankful for then what is?
There will always be one less present and one less stocking. One blonde missing from our line-up.
Piper died, but with grace, we are alive.
So we hang her ornanments and say her name while holding our rainbow a little closer each day. Birdie is not a replacement for our Piper girl but a reminder of how grand life can be. We can only hope that you all have a joyful time of year and we thank you for being a part of Piper's tribe.
Merry Christmas and rest easy our darling girl.