It is our 24th Christmas without Damien.
I first wrote this in 2013 and updated a few times
How has Christmas changed? Totally. I used to be all about Christmas. Loved it and planned for it. I enjoyed spending time with my children and we had our traditions that we loved every year. Favorite shows to watch, school plays, favorite foods to prepare and decorating the house. All the things that one does in anticipation of the wonderful unfolding of Christmas and the family joys it brings. The wonderment of little children and the squeals of delight as they see the presents under the tree. I loved to walk home from work through town and see Christmas lights happily dangling across streets, bustling with shoppers laden with bags of holiday food and gifts, heading home as the day turned to night. I loved Christmas and the feelings of happiness and joy were tangible. Now we have had 15 years of loss. Damien is gone. I don’t feel the joy anymore. We have a hole in the center of our family and we don’t know why.
After Damien went missing in November 1996 we went about our usual preparations, but instead of joy, I felt fear. The tree was trimmed and presents were purchased and placed under the tree. We waited every day for the sound of him coming home, but it never happened. We honestly thought he would be home by Christmas. It was unthinkable that he would not be found by then.
This first Christmas was the beginning of the new, changed Christmas. We still thought there would be an explanation and he will be home soon. The joy was gone and I tried ever so hard to keep it all together for my other children. I did all the same things. School plays and festivals and shows and traditions. But I was quaking inside with sadness. I felt guilty the second Christmas doing anything because he was not here. It was clear he was nowhere to be found and probably would not be walking through the door. But for the children’s sake we went through the motions.
I think that is how Christmas has become…going through the motions and trying oh so hard to ‘feel’ the joy, but quietly and methodically avoiding the knowledge that this is all for show and there is no joy at all, not as I knew it. Putting on a good face and making it the best that I can for the children. I listen to the Christmas music old and new. I am trying to muster a tiny tiny glimmer of feeling, but it is gone and I am numb. No matter how many Christmas programs I watch, it is gone.
I have grandchildren and I watch the shows with them that I watched with their parents and Damien. I am trying so very very hard to feel something, but it is just so difficult to find any feelings at all. I am numb. I love to be with the grandchildren and watch little faces…. but still - I am numb. I think every soft mushy, tender, soppy, warm, happy, gushy, sentimental feeling is gone.
I feel content the grandchildren are excited. I am satisfied that my effort to continue to do Christmas has given my children the desire to continue with the traditions and enjoy the anticipation of the season with their own children. I hope I saved Christmas for them a bit by not giving up completely but by making the best of a bad situation and doing the right thing for those left behind to cope with the loss of a loved, cherished child, and brother….