Monday, December 19, 2011

No Escape

We'll be spending Christmas here:

I'm dreading it.

That's not exactly fair to say.  The problem is, I've never been someone who wanted to do Christmas at the beach.  To me, Christmas is about the same cheesy traditions in the small town where I grew up.  We drive around to look at the lights.  We meet up with old friends in town for the holidays.  We watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with my parents.  We open gifts one at a time.  We play Christmas trivia pursuit.  We eat homemade Christmas candy.  We go to my aunt Tammi's and have a noisy and chaotic Christmas dinner with the extended family.  We play Dominos and listen to my Nana shout at people.  We go to the eleven o'clock Christmas Eve service and at midnight, the whole congregation stands in a circle around the sanctuary, everyone holding a lit candle, all the lights turned off, and we sing "Silent Night," waiting for the bell tower to ring in Christmas day at the stroke of midnight.  We hope for snow and rarely get it, so we learn to appreciate the way sparkling lights are set off by drab brown trees and damp, chilly nights.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and one of the many things I looked forward to about being a parent was starting our own Christmas traditions and sharing the excitement of the holiday with our little ones. My grandma started an angel collection for my mom when she was little, and when I was born, my mom started one for me.  I wanted Eliza to have her own angel collection.  I wanted her to get an ornament every year, just like my brother and I did.  I wanted her to write letters to Santa and choose a toy each year for a child in need.  I wanted her to learn the Christmas story and to believe in the magic of Santa Claus.  I wanted to read her The Night Before Christmas and teach her to sing "Away In the Manger."  I wanted to buy her new pajamas each year to wear on Christmas Eve.  I wanted my mom to make her a homemade stocking.  I wanted to focus this Christmas especially not on gifts, but on how lucky we were to have each other and our baby girl.

I wanted a lot for Christmas this year.  And obviously I didn't get any of it.  It may seem childish and ineffectual, but my response to this great disappointment is that if I can't have the Christmas I want, I won't have any Christmas at all.

I will boycott it all together.

This is a great idea in theory.  In reality, skipping it sucks.  Not as much as it would suck to act like things are normal and go through the motions, but still.  Not great.

I love Christmas.  Unabashedly, cheesily, ridiculously love it.  I love my family.  I love our simple Christmas traditions.  I love thoughtfully shopping for gifts that I think people will love.  I love wrapping presents and tying them with real ribbons instead of stick-on bows.  I love making cute gift tags.  I love decorating the tree, and seeing all the presents under it, each one representing someone we love.  I love stringing a ribbon across our dining room doorway and using mini-clothespins to hang Christmas cards from it.  I love bustling stores at Christmas time.  I love holiday parties.  I love that David puts lights up on our house every year, and that he's a total perfectionist about it.  I love setting the dining room table with Christmas centerpieces, I love hanging our square red-berry wreath on the door, I love substituting a Christmasy doormat for our regular one, I love sitting in our living room with just the Christmas lights on and candles glowing, drinking hot chocolate with a splash of Bailey's, or sipping red wine and watching movies with David.

This year, I am having none of it.  There are no decorations up in our house.  Our tree is put away.  My angel collection is in the shed.  We've received very few Christmas cards, and we're not sending any.  We politely declined party invitations from our co-workers.  We fastforward Christmas commercials, we avoid Christmas music, we're not making any foods that are specifically "Chirstmas-y."  We're just ignoring the holiday all together.  Honestly, it's not a great way to get through the holidays, but it's the only thing I have the energy to do this year.

Most people have been very understanding of this, but some people seem to think that we're letting our loss overshadow everything and we should be more thankful for things (and people) we do have in our life.  I can sort of understand this perspective.  I'm certainly very grateful for my family and our friends who have been so supportive this year.  I understand that these people deserve to be appreciated and celebrated.  I miss my extended family, whom I haven't seen since last fall.  I hope they all realize that my absence from family Christmas is not because I don't love them or want to see them, but just because I can't bear to be there without my baby.

I just cannot imagine trying to have a traditional family Christmas this year.  Not when it is so far removed from the Christmas we had hoped to have.  I think that going through the motions would be really painful, and even though I adore my cousins and their cute little kids, it will break my heart to have to witness everything we're missing out on.  I don't want to be that girl who's crying through Christmas, and I just don't see the point in putting ourselves through that this year.  It just feels too hard.  I think the people who love us most understand and accept that.

We decided to travel somewhere warm and sunny and different.  People keep asking me if I'm excited about Mexico.  I don't know how to answer that.  Yes, I'm looking forward to having my husband all to myself for a week.  I'm looking forward to 80 degree weather and sunshine.  I'm looking forward to my daily agenda being "read book poolside."  Or maybe "golf nine holes."  I can't complain about the opportunity to take a tropical vacation from the dreariness of daily life.  But am I excited to be spending Christmas this way?  Not exactly.

I've never spent a Christmas away from my mom and dad and I already feel teary and homesick just thinking about it.  I miss my brother and the way he staggers out of bed on Christmas morning, bleary-eyed and needing coffee and a shave.  I hate missing out on all our usual traditions.  I hate that I miss out on seeing relatives we just see a couple times a year.  I'm sad because it just doesn't feel like Christmas at all.  But that's the thing.  I don't want it to feel like Christmas.  I don't want Christmas without Eliza.

So we're going to the beach.  Just the two of us.  My parents are going to my mom's sister's house in Arizona.  My brother is spending Christmas with a friend in Shanghai, China.  I hate that I'm not going to see them at Christmas, but I also know that for us, this year, this is the best way to get through the holiday.  By ignoring it all together.  I don't think we could do this forever.  I don't think this solution is the right one for everyone.  But I just can't imagine doing anything else this year, when the pain and loss still feel so fresh.

The word "solution" is totally wrong, though.  This decision doesn't fix anything, or make me feel any better.  It's just one more distraction.  It's our attempt to get through the day/week with as few grief-triggers as possible.  It's certainly not a perfect way to get through the holidays.  It's just the best we can do right now.

And I know, I can't really bitch about this:

But when you compare it to the Christmas I wanted to have this year, it doesn't even come close.  And that's what everything keeps coming back to.  I miss our baby girl so much.  I don't want to have Christmas without her.


  1. the thing is, losing a child DOES overshadow pretty much everything. so those who comment that they don't want your loss to overshadow what you do have, clearly do not understand the enormity of your loss. at least in my humble opinion. i remember last yr my a friend of ours was throwing a NY party and invited us. i promptly decline. and his response was actually one of shock. he said that he wanted us to get back to "being happy." i couldn't believe it. i wasn't even a few months out, and he already expected me to be my old self. people just don't understand.

  2. I am really struggling with this so much more than I expected this year. The first year we avoided it altogether. The second- I was 20ish wks pregnant- we did a compromise, went to the family stuff and played along, but really didn't decorate or go all out like we used to do. This year, I still don't feel like doing it the way we used to do, but feel like we should since Lucas is here, but don't feel like it at all and he won't know the difference this year at least, anyway. It's still the things like getting stockings made,etc. that suck and make me want to avoid it altogether, this year too, at least. Blech, and I hate not being excited about Christmas. But it will never be the way it should be.

  3. I think every year will get a hair easier, but it still won't be right. Losing a child overshadows everything because that's what holidays are all about-- family. She's family. And she's gone.

    I understand your sentiments about what Christmas should be and how it's not this year. I agree that I'm excited to spend a week with E, but not excited that I'm trying to go out of my way to avoid something that is so wonderful normally.

    I can't believe that he's gone. Forever. Eliza either. I just can't believe we were dealt these cards.

  4. Well I think it looks lovely. Especially if it's just what you need this year.

  5. Oh, yes, you most certainly *can* bitch about spending Christmas in Mexico...because it will never be what Christmas should have been for you this year. I get that. I should be 34 weeks pregnant with our twins on Wednesday, but instead we're sucking it up and going through the motions of our "normal" Christmas routine with family because we were unable to come up with anything else that would have been better. We just put our tree up and lights on the house yesterday. The only ornament on the tree as of now is the one we made at a babyloss remembrance event last night. Christmas sucks this year worse than I ever imagined was possible. I like to look at the lights and decorations and everything, but don't want to be expected to enjoy myself or "be grateful for what I have" (anyone who says that can piss off). I just want my babies back, something I can never, ever have.

    Hugs to you, Brooke...and my thoughts are with you, your darling hubby and baby Eliza.

  6. I get it...and I totally understand. Be kind to yourself. Do what you gotta do to get thru it. Reading poolside sounds like a great alternative. Sending love from Texas.

  7. I think that place looks beautiful, but agree that having our babies here celebrating Christmas with us would be a gazillion times better.
    I am not going home to see family this year for Xmas either. My husband and I have set stuff up at our house but it will be just us, alone. I refuse to go home and see family or anyone else and have to listen to people tell me I should be happy its Christmas or hear its been almost a year and to move on. Many people do not seem to understand our losses because right now losing our babies does overshadow everything else.

  8. I'm all for survival, and whatever you have to do to get through it. I am sending good wishes and happiness found for your vacation.

  9. Given you can't change Eliza being dead, and Christmas can't be postponed, there are probably worse places to ignore it..

    I used to like it too, but life is very different without them, isn't it? The year before Catherine died, I remember my facebook status on Christmas Eve was "presents wrapped, stockings hung; child asleep; all is well with the world". Now, I'll never be able to say that again... ever. Not even if things get "better" as everyone assures me they will ;-)

    Have "enjoyed" reading some of your blog tonight - beautifully written and pithy. I'm very sorry for your loss. Life is shit sometimes. x

  10. So much love to you, Brooke. This is just crazy hard. I don't remember much about the first Christmas after Teddy died, except that we stayed home and that I was desperately grateful for the heavy snow that meant almost everyone else stayed home and inside, too.

    I hope Mexico is kind to you and that, since you can't have the Christmas that you should have had with Eliza, you get at least a little breathing and resting space.

  11. Between all of us babyloss parents, there have been a lot of cancelled Christmases. Don't beat yourself up about it, you're doing exactly what you need to do to survive.
    Christmas 2008 was cancelled here. The lot of it. So I can very much relate.
    Enjoy the sun. We love doing Christmas in the sun, but then again that's all we know!

  12. I don't blame you at all. You are right, Christmas is nothing like it should be and I love all the cheese-ball traditions as well or at least I used to. It won't be right this year or any year after, but I hope someday it finds a new place in my heart...different, but still special some how. I won't expect it any time soon, but I do hope for it, for all of us.

  13. So far, I've managed to spend every Christmas of my life with my family -- and while things have evolved over the years (especially since my grandparents have passed away), they've also stayed very much the same -- so I get where you're coming from. I was "fortunate" (??) because my grandfather passed away two months after we lost Katie, & then my grandmother almost a year to the day later. So nobody expected our Christmas to be very merry, if not because of Katie, then because of my grandparents. I hope that you & David have a reasonably good time in Mexico. It won't be the Christmas you wanted, but then, no Christmas ever will be quite the one you wanted again. (((hugs)))

  14. I am so sorry that it has to be this way. I've thought about you often, every day since Dec 6. This should be such a special, magical time, and it's just not, and it's so, so unfair. I hope Mexico proves to be the relaxing distraction you are looking for, and I hope for happier Christmases to come for you and David.

  15. I definitely understand.. and I wish this Christmas (and all those to come) could be different. Sending love and thinking of you and Eliza..

  16. I would like to come with you, to escape it all. I only wish things could have been different for us all. FACK.

  17. I think your making the right choice. This will be the first Christmas without my daughter and though we are not traveling, we will not be spending it with family. Too hard, too much pressure, just too much.

  18. Yep. Fuckety fuck.

    It's quite possible that I have finally found someone who loves this time of year more than myself.

    Hang in there and let us know what you're reading.

  19. Do whatever you need to do to survive. I hope you have some peaceful times away, knowing it should be very different. And those who love you will understand.

  20. I hope you get a tan. That always makes me feel a LITTLE better. But that's because I'm borderline albino pale.

    Today we stood in line for Finley to sit on Santa's lap. Cale should have gotten to do that. He would have been really cute this year too and it kills me that he never got to do these things. So then I get pissed that my happy moment is dampened by this grief and this loss that we've suffered. And I just miss my boy so much.

    Hang in there. Wishing your little girl was right there with you.

  21. You put this really perfectly. I feel very similarly and although we bought a tree, I think I keep putting off decorating it because I shouldn't be decorating it right now. I should be 34 weeks pregnant and not climbing on ladders. It's hard to reconcile this Christmas that I'm having with the Christmas I wanted and should have had.