Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our First Christmas

In an earlier post on handling the holidays, there was advice on how to take care during this particularly stressful season. Although I believe the list of coping strategies, they were not all authentically mine. I wanted to take this opportunity to post how I coped with the holidays, the first year after Flynn's death.
Flynn was born in May and by the time December came around I believed I was coping with his death and could handle this family- oriented time of year. We had Rhys at home after all and he was three and a half, needing our undivided attention and fully aware of the promise of presents that this season brings.
As I began to prepare for the holidays, with decorations and festivities it became evident to me that something did not feel right. I did not know how to feel happy when we did not have Flynn with us; the year prior on Boxing Day was when we found out that we were pregnant with him, that along with pregnant family and friends surrounding us, the holidays were beginning to feel unbearable.
Our family no longer talked about Flynn; in fact I felt like I discussed him too much as discomfort crossed the face of my loved ones. Although Flynn lived for only a short time; the previous year during my pregnancy with him was how I landmarked my life. The only way to bring up an event was to position it in relation to my pregnancy or his death. I felt that any conversation with me must be depressing and therefore I did not say much, the holiday events became a source of anxiety as I struggled with how to politely smile and nod through conversations without creating despair.
I soon recognized that I could not make Flynn a part of the larger family holiday, I needed to make him a part of our small family's traditions and I went about figuring how to do that.
We have a custom in our family, we get an ornament for our tree when a child is born and I decided that Flynn needed one for our tree. I went about the difficult task of finding one that had meaning, was hopeful but not whimsically proclaiming "Baby's First Christmas!" I did not find anything and when I felt defeated and like it was an impossible task I received the Willow Tree "Angel of Comfort" from my aunt. It was not meant to be an ornament for a tree but when I got it, I knew that was exactly what it would be for our family. I wrote Flynn's name and birth date on the bottom of the figurine and hung it on the tree. I also bought one for my parent's and my husband's parents for their trees.
After finding the ornament I truly believed I would find some peace during the holidays but I did not, in fact I was feeling swallowed, isolated and depressed by my grief. What I really wanted was to be buying gifts for our son, hanging a stocking with his name on it, waking him to find gifts under the tree that his older brother would open for him. I did not know how to reconcile his death and the holidays.
At work they were having a toy drive for children in need, I had not been paying attention and then a friend asked me if I was going to donate to the Angel Tree? I was not sure that I heard her correctly, the Angel Tree? It turns out that was the name of the campaign and you could pick an angel off of the tree with a child's gender and age and buy an appropriate toy.
I went to the tree and the very first angel that I took off said "Boy, age 0" and that is when I knew that this was how I would honour Flynn during the holidays.
Since that holiday seven years ago, this tradition has evolved to include a toy for boys the same ages as ALL my boys and I involve the whole family in picking the gifts. For me it is the way to make meaning of a difficult time of the year and give to families who need a little help believing in the season just as I did the first year after Flynn's death.
I honour Flynn with a gift for a child in need and in turn it makes the holidays meaningful for my family in Flynn's memory.

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