This will be our fifth Christmas without Addalyn. At times it doesn’t feel like it could be that long ago and others it feels like a lifetime ago. I’ve learned to cope with my grief and not cry as frequently over the years. When people say “it gets easier with time” they either don’t have a clue or they do know and they just mean that managing your grief gets easier (you get used to doing it). The first year I skipped Christmas. Yup. I’m not saying it’s the way to go or not to go. But for me, I couldn’t bare to open all those Christmas decoration boxes without my little helper. I also couldn’t stand the thought of watching other children open Christmas gifts when my baby girl couldn’t. So, in our house there was no Christmas in 2017.
The second one without her I decided I needed to do the decorating because I couldn’t avoid it my whole life or make the holidays miserable for my family. It was hard opening all those boxes of decorations and having all the memories with her at Christmas come flooding back. There were lots of tears decorating that year. It was also harder because as time goes on people tend to think you should be over it and they stop mentioning her like they used to. I remember being told early on that the second year is the hardest. I don’t know if it’s the hardest but reality starts to set in during the second year and you realize this is your life now. By the time Christmas rolled around it wasn’t as hard as I anticipated it being. The reason it wasn’t as hard was because we got an amazing Christmas gift of being chosen to adopt our son. He came home with us ten days before Christmas and was a big surprise for us too. I’m glad that I chose to decorate, because even though he won’t remember his first Christmas, I’ll remember it. That Christmas was full of so much joy and sorrow. But wasn’t that the way the first Christmas was? There was joy at the birth of our savior (I’m not saying my son is Jesus, by any means haha), and there was also sorrow in the world and what would come for Jesus. Something about having sorrow makes the joy even sweeter.
The Third Christmas without Addy was still difficult. To this day I see gifts that I might have bought her for Christmas or outfits for family photos. This was the first Christmas our son was excited about, which made it even more fun for us to watch him. I still thought about whether Addy would be walking and how she would be reacting to gifts and tearing open presents. But mostly I focused on being in the moment. I saved most of my reminiscing and tears for when I was alone.
Last Christmas was our fourth one without our baby girl and also our first with our second son. He came to us over the summer and with him came many reminders of Addy. He required lots of medical equipment, doctor appointments, and therapies. If not for Addy I probably would have been too scared to say yes to a child with so many medical needs. And if not for Addy we might not have experienced the joy that he brings to our home. Last Christmas was fun with our boys. They loved the lights on the tree and I was able to remember our Christmases with Addy with a smile. She always loved the Christmas lights too. That doesn’t mean I didn’t cry at all. I still cry because I still miss her.
This is the first Christmas that I’m really looking forward to. When she died I didn’t think I would ever look forward to holidays again. Both boys are at an age where they LOVE tearing open presents and will most likely enjoy the boxes more than the gifts. We will take our family photos and include our Addy bunny or one of her Christmas pictures with us like we do each year since she ran home to heaven. (We didn’t get any photos her last Christmas because we had just come home from the hospital after her tonsils were removed and we mostly rested. I will never forget holiday photos again. I still hate that I don’t have any from her last Christmas here.) After photos I’ll most likely be super focused on the boys and their excitement but I will never forget who’s missing. And I will always have tears as I continue to miss my baby girl. Grief is not something you ever get over, it’s something you learn to live with. As time goes on you discover that joy and sorrow do go hand in hand.