It’s hard to believe my daughter, my rainbow, is 16 months old already. There are days that it feels like I was pregnant yesterday, crippled with fear but choosing hope in every single milestone. Then there are days where it feels like she has been here all along. As if I barely can recall a life without her here. Sometimes grief feels far away and I secretly beat myself up for that. I should be crying more, right? I shouldn’t be able to be around pregnant women still, right? I should miss him more, right? It sounds awful, even just thinking those thoughts. Of course I miss him. I just found my joy again and so missing him doesn’t look the same as it used to. The tears are not as predictable. The ache is much more bearable. The thought of him and pregnancy feels a little warmer than it did a few years ago. I am grateful for all of that. Sometimes it feels like ages between the big reeling tears now. I also secretly wonder if I am a bad mother because of that. As if my earth-shattering pain is the only way to prove my love for him to myself and the world.

Then this time of year comes. I am waiting for the ton of bricks to come flying at me. I feel it building. The unexplained frustration. The anxiety rising in my chest without reason. The restless nights. I feel my sensitivity towards innocent comments rising. I don’t know when exactly, but it’s coming. The grief wave. There is something about the changing of the season that gets me. Maybe it’s another season passed. Maybe it’s the special days we missed or the ones we are about to miss. Maybe it’s the aging of my grief or that it just feels a little heavier when there is a measurable shift in life. Those days, the ones he should have been here for, they are gone–again.

I made a quick stop at Target this week. For some reason I was unprepared for the Christmas trees and ornaments everywhere. My heart began to sink deep into my chest and the first thing that came to mind was my son. Another Christmas without him. I looked down at my daughter, all lit up with curiosity at all of the bright colors and lights, and I felt a balance I hadn’t felt before in “one of these moments.” The balance of extreme grief and extreme joy for Christmas this year. It’s coming and he won’t be here, again. But she will. My husband was deployed last Christmas, so although our rainbow baby was technically here, I kind of “skipped” Christmas emotionally. This will be the first year since our journey to having children began that we will celebrate with our child, in our arms. A full stocking. Presents under the tree. The real deal. We will have Christmas as a family. Tears of sadness and joy made way down my cheek. It can be both. It’s okay, I tell myself.

Within ten feet of the Christmas trees, we pass the Halloween costumes. (I know, one thing at a time Target, pleeeeaaase!) I felt the same tug of grief and joy. I wondered what Halloween would feel like with our little boy here. I wonder what costume he would have chosen. I wonder who his favorite superhero would be. I wonder all of the time. There is something magical about Halloween. Not because it is a sacred holiday but because it’s all about the magic for kids. The choosing of whoever they want to be for one day. I love watching how proud they look in their costumes as they march around with excitement. Our daughter loves Minnie Mouse. It was one of those things that just happened. She loved Minnie Mouse long before she ever saw the show. She received a Minnie Mouse doll for her birthday and has been tickled by her ever since. My husband and I did a lot of costume browsing. We agreed that this is the last year we will actually to get to pick her costume so Minnie will have to wait. We had her Minion costume all ready to go. But as we passed the costumes in the store this week, we couldn’t shy away from the way her eyes lit up when she saw the Minnie dress. Our little rainbow is already dreaming of who she wants to be. Finding the balance of my dreams for her and her own is easier than I thought. My dream is for her to follow her dreams. Just the way I followed mine for her. A milestone passed. She made her first big choice. She will be Minnie Mouse.

Our son did not get any choices. He will never pick out a costume or open a Christmas present. We will never see his eyes light up at the sight of a superhero cape or Christmas tree. But he is very much present on all of these days, during all of these seasons. I am sure Halloween will bring some tears as it always has and that’s okay. But overall it feels different this year. Its feel exciting. It feels hopeful, and it feels filled with anticipation. To honor him, we will choose joy in every single milestone with his little sister. My grief my look different but my love for him continues to grow deeper with every special day that we never get to have with him.

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