Thanksgiving has passed and the hustle bustle of Christmas is truly upon us. Stores are flooded with shoppers, lights are covering the neighborhood houses, and a crisp winter chill has hit the Ohio air.

Delilah, Nathan, and Teddy's Molly bear

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Michalski

The other day, as we made way for the Christmas tree (in my typical fashion of making a mess to clean a mess), I started a playroom for my littles. It has “Nathan’s kitchen,” as he calls it, a play house, and a big blue bucket full of Delilah’s little toys that sing and flash pretty colors. This morning I’m sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee, while the babies play in their new room. Nathan’s running from toy to toy as Delilah bangs a play cooking pot on everything in here, making as much noise as she can. They are happy. But I’m sitting here watching their joy, and an immense feeling of sadness washes over me.

I’m overwhelmed because I realize my grief has come to pay a visit.

Teddy would be four years old right now. He would be well into understanding Santa, presents, singing Christmas tunes with mama, and helping decorate the tree. Our sweet boy is spending the holiday in the stars, as always. But it hasn’t stopped me from missing him, every second he’s gone. We honor him in the best ways we know how.

Stockings under the Christmas tree - When Grief Pays a Visit at the Holidays

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Michalski

We have a beautiful stocking that will sit with the ones we bought for Nathan and Delilah. It has the cutest teddy bear on it.

Teddy's Christmas Ornaments

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Michalski

We will purchase a new “Teddy” themed ornament, as we do every year. His bear (our Molly bear) will be present during presents, even though his stocking remains empty and there are no gifts under the tree for him.

Watching Christmas moveis

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Michalski

Our first Christmas was really hard. Our first Christmas with Nathan was also rough. No Christmas will ever be without the sting of guilt, the overlay of grief. One of my babies is not here, not opening gifts, not cuddling into mama’s arms on the couch as we watch our favorite Christmas movies. I’m getting to experience all of these firsts with Delilah, who we’ve decided is our last child. I know Teddy would be helping Nathan dress the tree, and helping keep Delilah from pulling the whole thing down with her super human-baby strength. It hurts, doing these things without him, but I know he’s with us, even if not physically. However, I can’t shake it, the dark cloud that’s always with me, hovering a little closer during these days.

Delilah at the Christmas tree - When Grief Visits at the Holidays

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Michalski

As the cold of December rolls in, so does the heaviness of the holiday.

The more time passes, the more I will be settled with my grief. I know it’s there, I’ve accepted its presence, and it has a name. And as much as I want to “be strong for my babies,” I know I don’t have to be in happy mom mode all of the time. I lost my firstborn child. I’m going to cry, I’m going to be angry he’s not here, especially for the holidays, and I’m going to feel all of the feelings. And then I’ll eat my feelings in the Santa cookies we bake because Santa only comes once a year. Grief will always be a balancing act. Enjoying the days filled with smiles and beauty, but also being sad. And that’s okay. I know it’s okay to be sad, and that my happiness and grief will forever co-exist. I can watch the smiles light up on my rainbows’ faces, while still wishing there were three in front of me.

Sending love to all of the families missing their angels this holiday, balancing their happiness and their grief. May our babies be dancing to the holiday music together in the sky.

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