'Twas the night after Christmas, as all through the house, not a creature was stirring.....except for me. Once again I lay awake in tears while the family lay sleeping. Once again I can't even cry myself to sleep, I can't even manage that. I know that I need to write this blog now. I know that I won't sleep until these churning thoughts are out of my head.
This has been the hardest Boxing Day since that one, that first one, 2011. Bertie's first Chrstmas but not his first. Actually our first without him. This has been our fourth without him and I feel almost as bad as I did then. There have been tears, there have been attempts to escape, to find air, but nowhere to escape to for long enough, far enough. I've hidden it well, I think. I can at least be proud of that. Nobody but my husband knows how difficult I have found today. I have played with my nephew, I have held him. I have listened to relatives talk about their granddaughter, about their and her delight in leaving mince pies for Santa, her suggestion that they leave a brush for him to brush the crumbs from his beard. Their fun in leaving crumbs in the brush as evidence. They don't know how that ripped my heart in two at the realisation that at three, Bertie would now want to leave a plate for Santa. That he never will. That in four Christmases we have made no family traditions, no memories our our boy's childhood. Nor we will. There are no stories for us to share around the table.
My social media news feed has been full of my friends' children today. Of course it has. Of course, that hurts. Of course, I wish I were posting my own pictures of my son, of my son and his younger sibling if truth be told. That was the plan by now. Each family just posting one charming and innocent picture. It results in a string of torment on my feed. I have not put a status on my main page over Christmas, I don't feel I have anything to say that anyone wants to see. Of course the simple answer here is to not look over the holidays, a solution I know some people choose, but I don't want to slip back into avoidance. Hiding is not healing. But not hiding sure does hurt.
My nephew's first Christmas. So different from my son's. Yesterday I laid flowers at my son's grave. Today I gifted my nephew two lovingly knitted hats. I'm watching one grow. The other, I watch the snowdrops begin to grow at his forever bed instead. My husband and I are now learning just what we have missed. But we are not learning it in the way most bereaved parents learn it, through their own rainbow children. Instead I watch from the bench as my younger inlaws raise their little boy. I get my sort-of, not really, awkward and painful "baby fix" in holding him for a while, then feel my heart break all over again as I hand him back, knowing that tomorrow I will return to a silent house, an empty nursery. So torn, between wanting to be a great aunty, to love him and play with him and relish it, whilst at the same time attempting to protect myself from the agony of my shattered heart. I feel an irrational anger that they have bought tree ornaments for him. Bertie has those, they are all Bertie has, can't they leave that for him alone?
I know I did not manage to completely hide my struggle. My father in law knew. He said to me, just think about next year, your own little one will be here, and it will be amazing. I love his heart. But I have told myself that lullaby for four Christmases now. I think I can be forgiven for a little cynicism, a slight lack of positive mental attitude. The family mean well. But I feel my son is the elephant in the room. Do they think-better not mention it, she'll get upset. Or, have I made such a good show of "being fine" that they actually believe that I am? I know that they don't realise that the combined result of the not mentioning, but talking about all the other children in the family, and having the youngest here with me all day has been a javelin right through my armour today. I wonder what they would say if they did?
If they asked me, I would tell them what I have written here. But they won't, and I won't and we'll all just sweep it right along under the carpet where it belongs, and everyone will be happy and everything will be just fine. Because it's less painful that way, isn't it?