In a perfect world, Geordie and I would have stayed in Japan with Lauren for a few more years. For that reason, we had planned to spend Lauren’s first Christmas in Florida with both sides of her family. In that perfect world, Lauren and I would have landed in Tampa on December 8th and stayed a month. My greatest worry in that perfect world would have been how to keep nine-week old Lauren quiet and happy on a twelve-hour international flight.

But in this world – so terribly evident in its imperfection because of Lauren’s absence – my greatest worry is how to survive the holiday season without completely losing my sanity. Every aspect of this season seems designed to celebrate family and tradition and the joyfulness of welcoming a bright new year full of potential. And all that is understandable, given that it’s the time of year when the faded light begins to return. Whether you celebrate it as the birth of Jesus Christ, the Winter Solstice, a Festival of Lights, or any of the many other interpretations of the season, the essential idea is that light is returning to the world (or at least the Northern Hemisphere) and bringing with it hope and joy and a promise for new life.

Which raises the question: what if you’re in mourning? What if all the dreams and wishes you had for the next year have been erased, blown away by the winds of loss and grief?

I knew coming into this season that it would be difficult. This is my favorite season, the closing of the year, as it brings with it the quiet reflection of a year past and the anticipation of new hopes and dreams. This is a season for cleansing oneself to prepare for that new start, to let go of all the disappointments and the setbacks. It is a season of hope and love. And, for me in that perfect world, it was the time of year when I would introduce Lauren to her family, to share with them one of the most wonderful things to happen to me. I was eager to share with her all the holiday traditions I love so well, even as I knew she would be far too young to enjoy or even understand any of them. What mattered was that she was going to be a part of everything, just as she was going to be a part of our lives.

And now she’s gone, and we’re facing the first Christmas without her – her first Christmas.

It’s hard to enjoy myself. I want to enjoy the Christmas season; I love it. But at the same time, I don’t want to. Some part of me believes that enjoying Christmas without Lauren here is a betrayal of some sort. Ridiculous, but there it is. My daughter is gone. How can I possibly be happy without her? How can I dare to laugh and sing and do all of these things without her? I feel like I should be apologizing to my family because she’s not here. But I don’t want to be miserable. This season is representative of hope. Yes, we’ve lost Lauren, but shouldn’t we be looking forward to the future with hope? Shouldn’t we acknowledge the 38 wonderful weeks I did have with her inside me? Shouldn’t we feel blessed that she was here with us for even a short amount of time? Shouldn’t we –

No. That’s what it comes back to: my daughter isn’t here. I’m not going to pretend I should be happy during this season. Because I’m not. I want her here with me. I want to see her in her family’s arms, I want to see her with presents she’s too young to appreciate or open. I want her here in goofy little Christmas outfits and little reindeer antlers. I want her in Christmas pictures, and I want her in videos. I want her sleeping through Christmas parties and staring at unfamiliar voices. I want her; I want my daughter to be here for Christmas. I want people to acknowledge her and say her name. I want people to know that she existed and that she was loved and anticipated. I want her absence to go noticed, because it is all I can think about some days.

For me, Christmas this year is not about hope. Maybe it’s too early in the grieving process right now, but I can’t look forward to the year ahead and think about the potential it has, because I’m not ready for that. I don’t believe 2012 is going to be a terrible year because Lauren isn’t with me, but my life will always be missing something now. I have to accept that, and that’s going to take time. So, this Christmas, I’ll be happy when I’m happy. And when I miss Lauren, I’ll miss her. This is how life is going to be from now on: knowing that she’s not here and living with it. I’ll have sad days, and I’ll have happy days. Christmas isn’t going to change that. I refuse to ignore her during this season, and I also refuse to do nothing but mope through the holidays. I do have Lauren to celebrate; her brief life was a gift to me, and I will appreciate it to the fullest. 

So, I’ll mourn during this Christmas. And I shall celebrate as well. This too is my life now: joy paired with grief, celebration twisted with sadness. My life won’t stop because Lauren is gone, but I can pause from time to time and remember her and love her and mourn her. Then I can continue on, holding fast to the knowledge that I was blessed with Lauren, and even though she’s gone, the memory of her will stay with me forever.