by Angela Miller
Have they arrived yet? The holiday cards that hurt. The ones that burn new holes in you. The ones that remind you of every single thing you’re missing. The ones filled with blissful families complete.
I remember the burn of the holiday cards the first few Christmases. Every year they would arrive. Every year I’d look at them while shaking and holding my breath. Every year they would make me bleed all over again. Every year not one person would remember to mention my precious son. Not one.
Then there was the flip side of the holiday card stress: How can we send a family picture when our family is forever incomplete? How will we include him? Will we sign his name or not?
For me, every year has been different. Some years it brings me comfort to sign his name on the card, other years it pains me too deeply. Some years I like to include him by holding a photo of him in our family picture, some years I simply cannot. And no matter which we choose, nothing is how it should be.
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This is our holiday card this year. Usually the boys hold a picture of their brother, but this year that didn’t feel the least bit comforting to me, as they both have now surpassed him in age– yet he should be the oldest.
It pained me too deeply to see them holding a picture of their oldest brother– permanently frozen in time, forever younger than they currently are. I just couldn’t bear the thought of it.
He should be the oldest.
Instead he would look like the youngest.
How? How is that possible?
The way time keeps marching forward and he stays forever the same age is a knife in my heart.
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At first glance, it looks like a very Merry Christmas indeed for our family. But what this picture doesn’t show is the un-fillable hole in our hearts. The ever missing piece of our family.
What it doesn’t show is one very special, most loved, blue-eyed older brother who is missing. Two brothers, missing their third musketeer. Forever.
If that doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will.
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If only there were three like there should be. Three brothers. Three musketeers on three tree stumps, in the woods in front of a teepee.
Three brothers laughing and running and jumping and causing a ruckus in the woods. That would be a very merry Christmas indeed.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs: I have THREE, not just the two you see!!!
I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve stared at this photo wishing with all my heart I could make it so.
And sometimes, when I stare long enough, I see three.
. . .
But this picture?
It’s my favorite picture ever of my boys. I love it.
Except there should be three.
. . .
If only the world could understand how very un-Merry the holidays can be when you’re missing your flesh and blood, when you’re missing the biggest piece of your heart. And aching an ache beyond all aches– an ache that oozes and bleeds anew each holiday season, no matter how many years it’s been. Leaving a hole that neither time nor space nor anything in the world will ever be able to fill.
Know I’m remembering your precious child with you this Christmas. Know the empty chair at my holiday table will be honored and spoken of, in memory of every precious child gone too soon. And please know I’ll be lighting a candle in loving memory of the ever missing piece of your heart.
I’m so terribly sorry your precious child isn’t here with you where they belong.
I’m so terribly sorry.
I wish with all my heart I could give you all you really want for Christmas.
Angela Miller is a writer, survivor, and grief advocate who provides support and solace to those who are grieving. She is the author of You Are the Mother of All Mothers: A Message of Hope for the Grieving Heart; a writer for Still Standing Magazine and the Open to Hope Foundation; and the executive director and founder of the award-winning online community A Bed For My Heart. Angela writes candidly about child loss and grief without sugar coating the reality of life after loss. Her writing and her book have been featured in Forbes, Psychology Today, MPR, BlogTalk Radio, Open to Hope Radio, and Writerly, among others.
Join Angela’s compassionate village at A Bed For My Heart.
Text and images © Angela Miller 2015. All rights reserved.
Top photo credit: Sarah Hrudka
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Remembering Noah…Cooper…remembering them all! Peace be with all of the Mamas with aching arms this Christmas!
Angela your words put all the things I feel in order, and say what I wish I could to those that should and don’t seem to get it. Thank you. I remember the first time I realized I’d never have new pictures of my son. That even if someone shows me an old one, maybe new to me if I had never seen it, it still was an old picture. That thought broke me all over. I had a picture of me and my older 2 children on my last birthday, and I photoshopped Jed in it, and it made me feel good. We all knew he was there, felt him, but they thought it was “creepy” that I’d done that. I edit pictures and use his pictures all the time, it is my therapy. My thoughts and prayers to your Noah and my Jed, and all our angels watching over their broken mamas, at Christmas and everyday.
Remembering my youngest son Montana taken form us by a drunk driver..Feb.25,2014 and all the families
without their precious children this holiday season..My heart and prayers are with you
Delores Appleton says
We lost my grandson Roland Zane Allen he only lived two days 1/8/15 – 1/10 /15 miss him every day
I see and hear the sadness you struggle with every day.
May you somehow find a little joy in the wonder of Christmas through your grandson.
Delores Gunderson says
I, too, am a grieving mother. My son suffered for 29 years with Crohn’s. Even his doctor couldn’t believe he was still with us after many, many major surgeries! His comment was, ” Rob, can’t believe you’re still with us, after all you’ve been through”. Wow. I was able to hold his hand, as he never would let me after surgeries, and kiss his forehead. Told him the Angels were coming for him and he would be with Grandma? I told him “I love you”, and the only words spoken from him all day, “I love you too”. , and he was gone!
I am a crohns surgical surviver. I guess I’m one of the “lucky” ones.
an invasive surgery worked for me. Tho I live with its outcome, sometimes feeling like a freak,
But I am alive. I am so sorry they could not help your son. He must have
Experienced a lot of pain and a chance to enjoy the life stolen from him by this awful disease
I am glad you had that last day sharing your love. God bless.
Jessica Hull says
Thinking of everyone who’s holiday is a little less bright. Praying for comfort. We miscarried just a few months ago and the thought of how our family of three would be closer to being a family of four pains my heart.
Karen Wilson says
Remember my handsome beautiful 30 year old son Daniel. My heart is shattered. His Dad’s and Sisters heart are shattered also. We lost him to a bicycle/carnaccident September29, 2015. His two precious daughters Libbie 7 and Clementine 4, have lost the best daddy in the world. We also miss our granddaughters as they are with the other side of the family and we don’t get to see them very often. My arms ache for there hugs and Kisses and playfulness with us. This is a different kind of kind of Christmas from years past. I never dreamed this could happen. It always happened to someone else and I never knew the pain they were feeling. No one can come close to imagining till it happens to them. Praying for you all because I need your prayers. Karen
Patti Gabriel-Burnick says
Remembering your Noah and my son John, on Christmas and always, as well as the children of all grieving parents. My son passed away December 12, 2011, so Christmas is not just a holiday he is absent from, but also a reminder of his passing. My birthday is December 21st, and John was the most thoughtful gift giver I’ve ever known! I could always tell he spent a lot of time picking out the perfect card for me. John was 32 when he passed…I thank God every day for letting me have him for those few years. I don’t have any other children, or nieces or nephews. John loved me deeply and unconditionally, and I miss his love so much. Wishing you all the best this Christmas season and all through the coming year.