I’ve been meaning to write about this. I will first share what Luke wrote on his blog
Nathan came up in conversation over dinner with friends a few weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving. Someone at the table asked how Susan and I were doing in this holiday season and the context was pretty clear. It occurs to me that perhaps others are wondering the same thing.
Thankfully there is a big difference between last year and this year. I could have skipped the holidays altogether last year. We traveled and were with loved ones, but the times were mostly painful and I did a lot of going through the motions. I can’t really explain what is different this year. I could say it was easier, but that wouldn’t be right. Holidays or not, there are moments where the loss is every bit as painful as it has ever been. And, good or bad, the holidays are times to focus on family and reflect on these things.
Thanksgiving was great. But it wasn’t great like Thanksgivings past. I thoroughly enjoyed extended visits with Susan’s family and Thanksgiving day was great fun. And I’m looking forward to Christmas and really expecting it to be a happy time with the kids and family.
It isn’t the same anymore though. I don’t think it ever will be. I don’t feel complete and I don’t think that any of us feel like our family feels complete. I can’t think of the holidays as “easier” or “better” this year, but I have been looking forward to them more and so far I have been able to enjoy them and I think that will hold true. For me, the holidays are going well, but they are not the same and they never will be. That sentiment isn’t me being still caught up in grief. Our lives are forever changed and shaped by this experience and the filter through which I view my life and these precious holidays will always include Nathan.
I appreciate the friend who asked. It was loving and considerate and it acknowledged that Nathan is so obviously always in hour hearts and on our minds. I can’t help but think, and fear, that these inquiries will dwindle over the years over the assumption that we “have moved on” or “had closure” or “come to terms” or because new friends we meet and become close with won’t have been in our lives when Nathan was physically with us. So next year, and the year after (and not necessarily around the holidays), let me know that Nathan has been in your thoughts. It will make me feel loved and it will warm my heart to know that he is carried in the hearts of others as well as my own. If you ask in person, I may or may not tear up or even cry. Don’t feel like you are responsible for surfacing the pain. It is always at the surface. And sometimes it is better to share those tears with a friend than it is to shed them alone.
Luckily for Luke and I, we feel very similarly about many things and this is one of them. I have to say that the very last part about sharing the tears…well, maybe not so much for me, as many of you know. Something you should know is this – I cry about Nathan a little every single day, privately. Someone shared a thought with me today “I plan on grieving for my child as long as he’s dead” . That is so true. When I am 60 I will be grieving for Nathan at holidays. Who knows what it will look like.
Things are not as raw this year. I was able to put a little picture of Nathan on the tree and photograph it with the girls. I was able to hang his stocking and the thought of it empty Christmas morning is hard, but I know I can bear it. I think that is the big difference to me this year, my ability to bear the pain has strengthened. The pain is not as raw and I can face it much better.