Christmas is officially one month away. Usually by now my house is full decorated inside and out and the Christmas music has been playing for about 25 days. I've even probably had a few egg nogs. That wasn't the case last year, our first holiday season without Ryan, and I'm surprised to say that it isn't the case this year either. It did eventually get everything done last year, just in its own time. My excuse being that I simply wasn't ready. In my own mind, that "excuse" doesn't seem as appropriate this year, so I've created others. It's too cold or rainy. We're busy with guests. The house is a mess. I have to clean first. The baby is being particularly needy. But they are just excuses. Despite coming from a long line of very festive and holiday-loving people, for the past two years I have just found it a little bit strange (difficult?) to feel festive when I'm missing someone so badly. But that doesn't mean I don't WANT to be the same elf-ish celebrator of Christmas I once was.
So last year, I scoured the internet for ways to bring Ryan into my season. Ways to include him, incorporate him, and celebrate him along with all of the rest of the celebrations. It was kind of a tough search. At that time I didn't know where to look. Pinterest isn't exactly full of ideas for this sort of thing, though believe it or not, I did find some good ideas there. And last year I wasn't as "connected" to others in the baby loss community as I am now. Those ladies never let me down when I'm seeking out info such as this. But little by little I pieced together some plans and created some of my own and my holidays were actually quite lovely. Bittersweet. But beautiful.
This year, I thought I would compile those ideas from last year, along with some I've heard about and gathered recently, in hopes this list will find its way into the hands of some other lost loss mama looking for ways to honour and celebrate her beautiful little one this Christmas.
That's all from me, though I'm sure there are so many other great ideas out there. I'd love to hear what you have planned,
I wish you a gentle and beautiful holiday season.
There's a lot of power in the lighting of a candle.
That's probably my biggest grief ritual. On days where I miss him especially hard, or days where I just want a little visual reminder that he's close, I light his candle.
I brought it with me when we travelled at Christmas. Lit it by the tree on Christmas morning as we opened gifts. I even brought it to the hospital when Brayden was born. We couldn't light it, but at that point, it was more what it represented: that Ryan was there with us. And the visual reminder got me through some of the challenging emotions I felt in those first few hours and days.
The candle has also been a bit of a signal (I think). A way of letting Rich know when I'm having a tougher day. Morning, afternoon, evening... When the candle is lit, my heart is a little bit heavier than usual. It's usually good for getting me an extra tight hug, or an especially attentive "How are you today?"
And sometimes, as a ritual of grief, it's just a bit of a habit. I'm always feeling it, and at some point in the last year, lighting the candle has become one more way for me to show it.
It had been one week since I've tended to Ryan's Garden. I usually go out once every few days to pick some weeds and remove spent blooms. But with Brayden's arrival I've been otherwise preoccupied.
Today, I looked out the window, saw the garden, and thought it was time to head back out and clean it up a bit. Yes. I know I just had a baby and should be taking it easy. But my philosophy was, if I could do it sitting on a foot stool in the grass at 38 weeks pregnant, I could do it at almost one week postpartum. And I'm so glad I did.
Though I've always loved the idea of gardening, how special it is to plant something and watch it grow into something beautiful, I had no idea how therapeutic I would find it as a tool for healing. And not just the watching it grow. It's in the having something of Ryan's to care for. Having a place to go that exists simply because he does. The time I've spent out there all spring, summer, and fall has always been enjoyable time. It's peaceful out there, and the gardening is really rewarding time spent.
And then, sometimes, something really special happens in the garden and I can't help but think it's Ryan reaching out to me. Like the one single daisy that chose October to bloom. A plant that was supposed to be done blooming in July, and in fact, sat dormant for all of August and September. Then suddenly, in the month his baby brother was born, Ryan's Garden gave me this one single sweet daisy. Yes I do take that as a gift from my boy. And those kinds of gifts are exactly why Ryan's Garden has been a wonderful and calming kind of therapy for my heart.
To be honest, the last few days my whole heart has not been really in this. It's actually been off in two completely different directions lately. One piece of it invested totally in Ryan and spending this month with him. And the other piece focused on his baby brother. A baby who I'm trying to be so optimistic for this month as we prepare to hopefully bring him home.
The point of "Capture Your Grief" is to bring some awareness into what grieving the loss of a baby looks like. And wow, does it ever get complicated when you're grieving one lost baby and hoping for the one on the way.
But my mother heart won't let me stop this. Writing. Reflecting. If Ryan was here, I wouldn't stop caring for him just because I am preparing for his sibling. And that's kind of how it feels for me. But sometimes, to focus so much on Ryan, makes me more afraid for his brother. And to focus only on his brother, makes me feel so guilty.
The fact of the matter is, my heart will always be in two places. And this is just another way I'm learning how to be a mother of two.
I guess I'm kind of apologizing if recently these posts have seemed half-hearted. I'm still working on the realities of doing double-duty, and Baby Brother isn't even here yet. But anyway... Today I'm supposed to be talking about the creative things I've done to honour, remember, and memorialize Ryan. Or maybe even taking on a new project. Well, I definitely don't have it in me to take on something new at this moment. But in the past year, I've done so many things, big and small, that tap into some bit of my creativity.
Most recently, for his first birthday, I had a book put together. I called it "Ryan's First Year" and I filled the pages with photos and bits of my writing to try to capture how we journeyed together over his first year "on the outside." From his birth announcement, first holidays, every milestone month, and even those creative projects I was just mentioning. It's something as a mother that you imagine doing for your child, keeping track of the memories for them. And I wanted to be able to do the same for Ryan. Even though it ends up being more for me. (But doesn't it for all moms?)
That's what "Creative Heartwork" means to me. It's doing little things for him, that help heal my heart a little. And hopefully over these next few weeks I'll find some inspiration for a little creative heartwork to help me through the confusion with which I've been struggling.