Grief and the Holidays.

Connections. To me, this is the central theme during the Christmas holiday season. Taking time to connect with people and do things that I am usually too busy for. A rearrangement of priorities and small moments of, “A HA! I should take more time from the small stuff (that takes up most of my time) to do this kind of connecting in the next year!” And also, a time to think about how I wish certain other connections would be…family, life, friends…none of these are perfect and often I am left wishing some things were different.

My mom sent me a picture right before Christmas, taken in 1975 with her (on the left), her sister (on the right) and their mom–my grandma (center). Isn’t looking at old pictures like jumping in a time machine? Seeing my mom, younger in the picture than I am right now, makes me feel like Marty McFly seeing his parents for the first time when he goes back to the future.

Isn’t she foxy?!

4 months after this was taken, my grandma passed away from cancer. The note from my mom read: “My mom didn’t always look like this, however 3 years of experimental medicine changed her looks, but not her sweet personality.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard lots of stories told about her, but I see her as radiant in that picture.

I was 3 when she died, and I often think how nice it would have been really get to know her. I do have faint memories of apples & cinnamon oatmeal, a whistling teapot, a big jar of buttons, orange plastic 70’s chairs and feeling happy sitting on them, waiting for the oatmeal.

I don’t remember her laugh, her sense of humor, her zany personality, her tenderness and patience, or her amazing sewing skills. I have my mom’s stories but none of my own, and that makes me sad.

5 years ago I remember going through the first Christmas after losing my baby girl after developing HELLP Syndrome in my pregnancy. I didn’t put up a tree. Didn’t buy presents. Didn’t hang stockings. I cried, a lot. The only way we got through it was because Hubby took over. I just hurt.

It is supremely unfair to not get the chance to get to know a little person that you already love so much.

I found a tiny white stocking with lace and pearls, and bought it as a present for Baby Rose–the extent of my celebrations. I’ve hung it up every year since then, with our other stockings.

My mom came out to help me plan for the funeral, and you can imagine the scene. Tears mixed with dark humor and a healthy dose of full strength Coke with salty french fries (don’t ask me why, but the combination is essential when dealing with a crisis). One late night when I was overwhelmed with the sadness of it all, she held my hand and said that while she was having her own difficult moment, she heard?…felt?….thought? her mom’s voice chiding her for worrying so much. “You know how much I love babies! I will sit here and hold this baby while you go hold your baby.”

Throughout the dark days of early grief, when even the strongest convictions of God and Heaven are tested, shattered, cast aside, and rebuilt (sometimes…sometimes not), it’s that connection that kept a small piece of hope going in my broken heart. That small pinprick of light–of a grandma holding her grandaughter–grew and grew until one day the grief was less and my faith became more.

It didn’t heal me, nothing can heal the pain of loss. It didn’t make everything better. It didn’t make me understand all the ‘why’s’. It didn’t lessen the time I spent grieving.

But.

I realized that there is one thing stronger than death. It’s the connection between people, whether it be family or close friends. I never got to know my daughter, but that doesn’t make me love her any less. She’s connected because she’s part of my family. I choose not to believe the end of this life is the end of everything, just like winter isn’t the end of the seasons. Its darkness gives way to the light of spring and the joy of summer just as assuredly as the darkness of grief and loss gives way to something else. I can’t say for sure what that ‘something else’ will look like, smell like, taste like (but if there’s no chocolate in heaven then I’m getting my money back!), but I can still picture it.

It’s snuggling under a warm blanket with hubby. It’s laughing at the playground, it’s giving swimmin lessons in the ocean, it’s baking cookies with my kids. It’s connections with people I love.

It’s thinking of a warm kitchen, with a grandma holding a baby, making warm apple and cinnamon oatmeal for me.

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8 Responses

  1. This is one of the most beautiful, stirring, moving things I have ever read. I had no idea that you all had lost a child. I’m so sorry about that, friend. I’m weeping now as I type this. These words in particular struck me deep in my soul:

    “You know how much I love babies! I will sit here and hold this baby while you go hold your baby.”

    Wow. Beautiful. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you so much!

  2. love you Tiff (((HUGS)))
    kathy

  3. I want to say more but what? I think you say everything so beautifully. I love that pic of your mom, grandma and aunt – I love the old pics, they bring back such great memories. Tiff this is one of those times I don’t want to stop writing, I want to say more – but I’m at a loss.

    Take care my friend

  4. It is a lovely, somber story, and I appreciated hearing it.
    Much love to you and yours,
    Steph

  5. Now I’m crying in my mac and cheese. Love you. I’ll be thinking of Baby Rose and your Grandma today. :smooooch:

  6. Please come by my blog when you can. There is a message there for you, friend.

  7. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I lost a baby in 2006, I was five months pregnant and had him in the car on the way to the hospital. He lived for 3 hours and died in my arms. You never forget them, but you do have to move on, don’t you. A lovely picture of your grandmother with your daughter… I often thought of my grandmother and my aunt who also died, looking after my Jacob….

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