Last night we brought the tree down from the attic, the big box of decorations and the twinkling lights, and instantly I felt it, that clawing feeling in the back of my throat, the deep ache in the pit of my belly, the rising sense of panic as it hit me that another year has passed without you.
Every day is tough without you, every Monday, every Wednesday, every weekend that passes, and yet Christmas will always be particularly hard.
I remember our first Christmas without you and how, just five months after we’d said goodbye, we had simply gone through the motions to try and make Lewis’s Christmas as wonderful as possible despite the fact our hearts were breaking. I remember sitting in the bathroom after dinner and sobbing for the baby I did not hold, the ‘My First Christmas Babygro’ unworn in your wardrobe, the stocking which would never be filled. But most of all I remember wondering how we would ever find a way to ever enjoy Christmas again when everything we had planned for had been destroyed.
By the time our third Christmas without you came around, your Dad and I had already separated, too consumed by our grief to find a way forward, too caught up in the past to even consider a future. And that was so hard, to know that the family I had longed for was now down to just two, and I genuinely don’t know how I survived that Christmas.
By our sixth Christmas without you I was engaged to Gaz, pregnant with Eva, and our Christmas was wonderful in so many ways. But I still struggled that year, fraught with worry about the baby who kicked in my tummy, wracked with guilt that for the first time in six long years our Christmas had been filled with love and laughter.
And as Christmas came round each year, first with two, then three, then four beautiful children, rather than feeling that things were getting easier, I actually found it harder. Seeing Lewis tearing open his presents, Eva’s excitement over her first stocking, Megan in her Christmas romper, Harry propped up in a Santa suit, they simply reminded me of all the Christmas’s we never got to spend with you.
We never got the chance to take you and Lewis to see Santa, to pay an obscene amount to queue in a freezing cold grotto, to receive a colouring book and crayons from a man with a polyester beard. We never got the chance to watch you in your first nativity, an angel in a cut out bedsheet, a wreath of tinsel in your hair, singing Jingle Bells at the top of your voice. We never got the chance to snuggle up with a Christmas movie, to wrap you and Lewis in my arms, drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream, toasty and warm as the snow fell outside.
We never got the chance to write your Christmas wish list, to see you and Lewis circling every single item in the Argos catalogue, fighting it out over who would get which Transformer, debating the pros and cons of Bumblebee or Optimus Prime. We never got to tuck you into bed on Christmas Eve, to have you throw your arms around my neck and tell me that you would stay awake all night listening out for those reindeer bells. We never got to kiss you goodnight just moments later as you slept.
We never got to see your face on Christmas morning, to see you and Lewis comparing stockings, prising action figures from their boxes, wielding bullet slinging Nerf guns around the house. We never got to see your face at the dinner table, to pull a cracker, put on your party hat, shovel down chocolate yule log and disappear with Lewis for your next Power Ranger Battle. We never got to put you to bed on Christmas day, to tell you how very much we love you, to thank you for making our lives so incredibly wonderful.
And in that way, as our 12th Christmas without you approaches, my heart aches for all of those things, all of those moments, and all of those years without you.
And I guess it’s because of that loss why I try so hard to make our Christmas perfect. It’s the reason why I exhaust myself with days out and Christmas crafts, baking gingerbread and making salt dough Santa’s, trailing the shops for the perfect gifts for your siblings. It’s the reason why I over compensate on Christmas morning, why our home will be filled with festive tunes and extravagant presents, why I allow the children to eat chocolate for breakfast and stay up as late as they like.
It’s the reason why I make sure that our day is filled with smiles and laughter, why we put on our party hats, play silly games and pull party poppers like there’s no tomorrow. It’s the reason why I take a hundred photos, make a thousand memories, overlook their tantrums a little more, worry about them eating their vegetables a little less, hold each and every one of them that little bit tighter.
It’s the reason why I do everything I can to give your siblings the best Christmas you’ll never have, to create the memories that you and I will never make, to fill our days with magical moments so there are fewer moments for my heart to break.
And although our Christmas’s are undoubtedly a time for love and laughter, for spending time as a family and feeling so very grateful at just how lucky we have been, I hope you know that beneath that smile is a Mummy, missing her son, who would do just about anything to have you here with us.
You are so missed Joseph, today and every day, and I feel both happy and sad, both proud and heartbroken, that your memory lives on in your siblings, that your name is spoken daily, and that you are shining, the brightest star in the sky, on all of us this Christmas.
I love you,