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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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
. . .
. . .
. . .