I have always loved Christmas; the lights, the scent of the Christmas tree, the cheesy films and the giving of gifts. Some of my fondest memories as a child are around the holiday period… getting those longed for roller boots, yes, they were second hand, but they meant the world to me. The disappointment of never getting that much hoped for Mr Frosty was always eliminated by the other toys my family got for my sister and me.
As I grew older, however, I lost the ‘magic’ of Christmas. I still embraced the holidays, but if I am honest, the true joy had vanished, and I figured that was just part of being an adult. The reality of Christmas when you are paying for it and arranging it is so very different to Christmas as a child when your only concern was when you could open the next door on your advent calendar.
But I have digressed…this is a story of how I discovered my true Christmas spirit, and that takes us back to Christmas 2007.
For a couple of years, we (Andy and I) had been joining together with our neighbours to create a magical Christmas event for all the neighbourhood children. We all decorated our homes with lights, and at the start of December we would gather the children, and we would go from house to house, and the children would throw ‘magical glitter’ at each home, and as the glitter hit the air, the house would be lit up. Once all the homes were twinkling in the darkness, we would light the community Christmas tree and drink mulled wine. It was on this evening our lives changed radically.
We had lost our first baby earlier that year, but we were in total denial that had happened. Thankfully we were granted another chance to have a family, and we were over the moon when I discovered I was pregnant again. We had numerous scans and were ecstatic to see our little girl Darcy growing before our eyes, she felt like a miracle.
The night of the big Christmas event was suddenly upon us, but an hour before it started Darcy died. It wasn’t confirmed for another 48 hours, but I knew she had gone… mother’s instinct? Who knows? But I felt her spirit leave and the emotional pain that hit me was surreal.
As the weeks passed, I would often sit gazing at the Christmas lights twinkling all around me. I would smell those old familiar scents of cinnamon, pine needles and oranges and wonder how the world could even still be turning, let alone be celebrating the holidays.
I intrinsically knew I had a choice… the loss of our babies could either make me hate Christmas forever, or it could make me love it more. I could see every flashing tree, and snowy scene Christmas card as a haunting reminder of the time we lost it all, or I could see it as a time of love and celebration…. and I chose the latter.
I chose to be real around the dinner table on the 25th of December, to be honest; I didn’t have the strength to be anything but real, I couldn’t fake happy, I was too broken. I gave myself permission to weep into my turkey, but also the freedom to smile if something amusing happened. I let go of the desire to be happy and chose just to embrace what Christmas is about; love, family and genuine connection. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt like hell to not have a baby in my arms. It also hurt like hell to reluctantly accept I may never get the chance to hang a stocking for a child of my own. But through the pain, I was able to see what I did have, and that was a soul mate for a husband, and a truly wonderful family and beautiful friends.
From that year on, Christmas changed for me. I regained the excitement I had as a child and the season became more special than ever before. I adore the lights, the decorations, the gifts and anything festive, but the reason I love it... That’s now completely different. I now adore it because it reminds me of what love is all about…. and that is the true spirit of Christmas.
This year the Mariposa Trust has a charity Christmas single out called ‘Symphony of Light’. The song has been written by Andy and me, and also our close friend (and legendary song writer) Chris Eaton. It is a celebration of Christmas and the people we have lost, and acknowledges the hundreds of unanswered questions we are left with when someone dies... but just as importantly it is a song of hope and love, and it truly captures the meaning of Christmas.
If you need support following loss, you may like to read the Saying Goodbye book. It includes our personal story of baby loss and 90 days of vital support. Saying Goodbye Book