I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I know who are grieving fresh losses. Holidays are so hard…they are a time of togetherness, and nothing emphasizes who isn’t there like having the rest of your loved ones in the same place. A friend in grief recently said to me, “Give it to me straight: do the holidays get any easier?” She’s going through her first holiday season without her daughter, and it’s obviously an incredibly difficult time for her family. Her question reminded me of something I wrote last year. I felt like it was worth sharing it here again as a reminder to take a moment to mention those who are missing to those who are missing them. And remember, everyone is missing someone, no matter how long it’s been. I am missing my grandmother (12 years), my aunt (four years), my best friend (two years), and my sweet daughter (five years). The holidays will never be the same without them…but the holidays are still wonderful.

heart tree

I love the holidays…but they are so hard. It’s such a complicated time for grief.

I’m so happy creating holiday traditions with Annabel and James…and so sad that Madeline is missing out.

The line between happiness and sadness is thin at this time of year. My children make me so wildly happy. It would be dishonest to say I didn’t wish all three of them were here, making Christmas memories. It doesn’t take anything away from Annabel or James to want their sister here to enjoy these moments with them.

Madeline’s death changed my entire life, and will continue to color every aspect of it…likely for the rest of my life.

That might sound ominous but it isn’t, not always. My emotions are more intense, my hugs are tighter, I take more moments to cup chins and kiss knees. I do my best to not put things off. I try to have more fun.

I also take the sad moments and feel them. Now that Annabel is old enough, I tell her, “Mommy misses Maddie and Jackie. Mommy wishes she could read a new email from her Aunt Kathy. Mommy is sad. Sometimes you’ll be sad, too. Everybody gets sad sometimes.”

I tell my children every day how happy they make me, and how much I love them. I am teaching them that happiness and sadness can coexist; specifically, that being sad and missing people does not take away from the happy moments we are currently experiencing.

It can be exhausting. I want nothing more than to be buying presents for Madeline, giggling with Jackie on the phone, and preparing for my Aunt Kathy to visit over Christmas. There are nights when I don’t know how my heart survives breaking over my missing loved ones while simultaneously bursting over something amazing my children did.

It can feel like a dual life, and I’m sometimes I’m very angry about it. The holidays, with all of their togetherness and over-the-top emotion, often bring this all to a head. It’s messy, and most people don’t want to hear about it. That’s fair.

I just…I want my kids to know that even though I’m living with this burden of loss, I am doing everything I can to keep it from hurting them. I might not always succeed, but I am trying. I want them to have happy memories. I want them to know how much I love them. They deserve great holidays no matter how emotionally complicated things might be for the grown-ups around them. So even though this time of year can be difficult, I promise to always do my best to make it magical. Even when things feel so dark, my babies are my sunshine. I love them so much.