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  • Writer's pictureJen Chappell

My Third Christmas Without My Son

I still vividly remember the first Christmas after I lost my son.

It was awful.

It was six short months after. I still had a shattered heart, and I was still in zombie mode as I was trying to process it all.

I remember strolling around Lowes with my dad, we were there to buy Cooper a Christmas tree for the cemetery. I couldn’t see because my eyes were blurry with tears. I couldn’t talk. My dad was heartbroken to see it, and I remember him adding things to the shopping cart in hopes to make me feel even a tiny bit better. I left Lowes with a Christmas tree for my sons grave, strings of Christmas lights, ornaments, a light up wreath for my house, and a pair of giant light up penguins for my yard.

Here I am, about to celebrate my third Christmas without my son. It’s not as raw, but it still sucks. I jotted down a few quick thought about what it’s like, now that I’m a few years out.

1) I still go shopping for him. My son gets Christmas presents. Sure , he doesn’t have as many as my living kids under the tree, but he is still carefully thought about. If you checked my google history you would see searches for "hottest toys of the season for 2.5 year old boys" Anyone else search amazon best sellers for your deceased child? Ive strolled up and down the aisles of Target wondering what I would have bought him. There is a strange comfort in it.

I also take great care in shopping for his grave. Each year he gets his own Christmas tree. I have amazing, BRIGHT battery operated lights, and I’m pretty conceited about the fact that my son's grave is the brightest of all the graves at the cemetery Each year I carefully select new decorations, as if these are his Christmas gifts for real. Bulbs on his tree, funny snowmen sticking out of the ground, and Christmas wreaths are all apart of his display. You know when you hang ornanets on your tree at home, you just find a branch and set the hook on the branch? I didn't think about how simple that was... until I had to figure out to keep ornaments on a tree that was going to remain at the cemetery all winter long. In a New York winter, with snow and wind and freezing cold temperatures. I have to wrap the metal hook around the tree several times and make sure its secure to withstand the winter. All these things, are ways of "shopping" for my son. Making him physically present in a home where he is not.

2) He is included in family traditions. I have always, always liked matching things. When my first child was born, I remember how excited I was when found a onesie that matched a shirt I had. Since having more kids and getting older, I’ve only gotten crazier (picture your crazy grandma with the pink cat sweatshirt) You better believe there is a Cooper stocking next to my other kids' stockings. Matching Christmas pajamas has ALWAYS been a favorite of mine (No exaggeration, my kids had 5 matching pairs this year). The first Christmas after we lost Cooper, I had a really hard time about matching Christmas pajamas. I was mad we were missing a child. I was mad he didn’t get to wear his pajamas. So naturally, I did the completely sane thing, that any loss mom would do. I purchased him matching pajamas in his size. His pajamas sit in his memory box, like so many other matching things. Quite often I will sneak something in a family picture to represent him. A blanket of his, a whale tattoo, something that includes him.

3) We MISS him. Duh Jen, this is obvious. But I don't think most people understand the level of missing a child that isn't here during Christmas (well really all year round). It isn't an occasional thought. It isn't shedding a tear as we open presents under the tree.

It is a constant, glaring hole that is in every aspect of my life. His absence is always, always at the forefront of my mind. I am keenly aware of what I am thankful for, but also keenly aware what I am missing. It hits me the most when I'm alone, for instance when Im driving in the car or when I'm getting ready for the day. Sometimes it hits when Im in a room full of people. But its always here. Like my hair is brown or my husbands eyes are blue, my son isn't here. Its a huge part of who I am.

I realized the magnitude of this when I launched a new item in my Etsy shop this year. I launched a Christmas ornament, that had one of three sayings- "Baby's first Christmas in heaven" "Loved and Missed this Chrismas" and Forever in our Hearts". The ornament could be personalized with a babys name and/or date. I said this once before, but if you only knew how many Baby’s First Christmas ornaments I made and sent out- it would shock you. SO many. Ornaments for miscarriages, ornaments for stillbirths. Ornaments for twins, ornaments for infants who died from SIDS. I often got messages with the orders with stories about their little ones and it broke my heart. But along with my broken heart, it made me feel normal. It made me feel like I'm not alone. I realized, whether someone talks about it or not, we want and need to remember our babies. Remembering them is not a weird thing to do. Its not an awkward thing for us. I will continue to do it every single year.

Be kind to yourself this Christmas mamas! We know what we lost and its ok to remember and celebrate your little ones who aren't here.

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Dec 23, 2018

This is my 3rd year without my daughter. Thank you for writing so honestly about what it is like to walk this path

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