Another festive season stands at my doorstep, rapping its bony knuckles incessantly against it, and all I want is to do is ignore it, hideaway inside my home, and not have to open it and deal with the onslaught. I do not want to face another Christmas, another vacation, and another happy season without my daughter, but I cannot hide from it. So I take a deep breath and make my way to the door, and I open it so the season can enter in all its glory. It brings with it a Christmas tree, gifts, and laughter. There are plans to make this the jolliest of all seasons and yet, my heart hurts, and my soul weeps for what should have been.

Christmas is always a reminder that there will forever be three in my family and no more. I no longer think of Zia when it is time to gift shop for my son. I know I have one child to buy gifts for. I breathe and carry on, take my devastation and lock it away where it can’t get me, if only for a short time. If just for a week or two, I will smile and pretend that everything in my world is not off axis. That my heart doesn’t bleed at the sight of that empty chair.  The world has moved on, but I am still stuck, like that broken recorder that keeps stopping at the same place and you hear the same words over and over again. Dead. Dead. Dead. She is dead.

I watched the Nightmare before Christmas the other night and in a lot of ways I felt like Jack, the King of the Pumpkins, searching for meaning, searching for something he doesn’t even know is missing, always looking and not finding. Like him, I want to feel the joy of Christmas but how do you feel something that is lost to you. He didn’t give those kids those horrendous toys because he was nasty. He did that because it was all he knew. I don’t mean to give so little of myself during the holidays; I just don’t have any more to give.

Maybe next year I tell myself, maybe next year it won’t hurt as much as it does, maybe next year I will feel less like a Grinch and more like me, the woman I used to be, the one who loved to decorate the tree and shop for gifts personally and not online. The wife and mother who made an extra effort, the one I left behind almost six years ago. There is great sadness in the loss of who you used to be.  And some may call me selfish, others crazy, it might be, but there is nothing this time of year can do to fill the void that exists inside of me.

If parents here are experiencing your first Christmas without your baby, just know that I understand the intense aching you feel. I have been there. I have survived it, but barely and not without wounds, not without looks of disappointment from those around me, not without looks of disbelief from people who will never understand what it’s like to lose a part of you. I write this without a smile on my face, nor a tear cascading down my cheeks, five and a half years later, I still write it numb in the hope that when you read this, you’ll know that you’re not alone. That across the seas, there is a mother who gets it.

Another festive season, the sixth without my daughter and I’m open about that fact that I stand on either side of it. Glad to be here with my son and devastated not to have my daughter. I will allow myself to feel the ache and desolation, but it will not ruin me like it hasn’t in Christmases past. I will stand, with my crooked spine and my slouched shoulders until this too passes. And it will.

How do you feel as the festive season nears? Do you feel pressured to be happier than you actually are? How have you coped with your loss during the holidays?