Tuesday, December 1, 2015

12 DOC: Day One: Jessi Snapp

*This post is part of our Twelve Days of Christmas series. You can read more here.*

By Jessi Snapp

This will be my second Christmas without my son. I have lived 461 days without him - that is - 1 year. 3 months. 4 days. And more by the time you read this.

It's hard to even comprehend some days, how this is my life and the life of so many others. Holidays are supposed to be happy and full of cheer. Filled with a million reasons to be grateful. This time of year, we are reminded so very bluntly what is missing from our lives. The holiday cheer acts like a huge spotlight on our gaping wounds. And the only ones staring at the stage is us.

So brace yourself - holidays can come with so much unexpected heartache.

The first year for my family was rough - and that is putting it lightly. It was new territory for me and I had to learn how to survive all of it. How do you sit at the dinner table and give thanks when your heart is barely beating? While it slowly bleeds out. How do you decorate a tree meant to tower over gifts for your children when your child is missing? Everything. And I mean Everything about it feels so wrong.

I'll never forget the first Christmas season without my son. I wanted so badly to find the joy and beauty he left behind, but all I found was crushed hopes and dreams. I was plagued with what should have been. I hurt so badly at one point that I tore my Christmas tree down in a fit of sorrowful rage. I tore off its lights and kicked it over. Like somehow it had caused all my pain. I sat in the disheveled mess of my Christmas tree and gave voice to my pain - I screamed. I cried. And I cursed the holiday. Swearing it off for eternity. I didn't even want to make the trip to see my family.

It wasn't until I found ways to include my son in the holiday that it started to become more bearable. After picking up the pieces of my broken holiday, we decided to start new traditions - ones that accounted for our son's absence but still allowed him to be present in our home and among our family. We decided that every year, as a family, we would make a special shopping trip with only one thing on our list - a special ornament just for Silas. We would decorate a tree just for him. We also had a sacred place in our home dedicated to him. Because of this - decorating the tree (for the second time) was a little less painful and more purposeful.

But the best thing we did was to dedicate our hurting hearts to doing something special in his memory. The first year I was so upset at the idea that his stocking would be empty - just another reminder that he was gone. So I asked family and friends to help me. I
asked them to perform a random act of kindness in his memory - big or small - and send me an email with their story. I would print them off without reading them. Fold them up and place them in his stocking to read Christmas day.

His stocking was full to the brim with stories of people helping someone in need, giving back to their communities, strangers helping strangers, and stories of people helping children in dire need. I even received stories from people I have never met. My large family - brothers, sisters, grandparents, parents, aunt, and cousins- all gathered around to listen to my husband and I read these aloud on Christmas. To this day - it was the most humbling experience I have had. It allowed all of us to see just how big of an impact our son left behind on this world. It made room for his life to be honored and remembered during a time I wanted him here so badly.

While he was missing from the circle around the tree - His life was greater and more purposeful than anyone of us sitting in that circle. It truly opened my heart and freed my broken spirit that was crushed just weeks before. The first Christmas wasn't easy - and it probably won't be for you either. And the only piece of advice I can give you is this:

Make room for your child this holiday season. Find ways to include them even though they aren't here. It is going to be hard because there are a million other things you would rather be doing and you can't because your arms are empty. Find a way to honor your child so that their spirit can fill the void that is ever so present this time of year. When you honor your child - big or small - your heart can be opened to discover the beauty and hope that your child has left behind. It's not the same as having them here - I know. But, it's as close as we can get.

~ ~ ~

Jessi Snapp resides in Indiana where she is pursuing her master’s degree in social work. She is married to her wonderful husband, Karl, and she is a mother to one living child and three in Heaven. After enduring two losses to miscarriage, Jessi became pregnant with her son Silas Edison who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 at 20 weeks gestation. Silas was born and passed on August 20, 2014. Though his life was brief, he is loved for a lifetime. In Silas’ memory, Jessi turned his nursery into an art studio where she creates custom memorial art for other babies gone too soon. You can find her heart-centered work at LuminousLightStudio and on Facebook. She is also the newest contributor for Still Standing Magazine.


Paytons mom said...

Thank you so much for sharing. this will be our 1st Christmas without our precious Payton. She will be gone for just over 2 months by the time Christmas arrives. My life is empty I feel so alone and lost. We have 2 older girls and know we have to have some sort of holiday for them. I know in my heart i want to do things to include our precious daughter in everything, but I cant seem to gather myself enough to start any of it. I know we will decorate her area at the cemetery so its pretty for the holiday with her own special tree. We have a mailbox there decorated so family and friends can leave drawings, notes et.. there for her without the weather ruining them. I just dont know how to muddle through. yours words are helpful and i hope they can inspire me to be able to do this. thank you

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