Updated: Dec 6, 2019
The holidays inevitably evoke feelings of nostalgia (opening presents with family, attending parties, eating pumpkin pie, etc.). As children, it’s often hard to imagine that these warm-fuzzy, nostalgia-triggered feelings could ever be anything but happy. But as we age, life begins to take several turns. Eventually, the memory of sitting on your grandpa’s lap as he opens the ornament you made him brings tears because he’s no longer here and his favorite chair sits empty this Christmas. The one thing about memories is that they have the ability to somehow make you happy and sad all at the same time - happy for what was and sad for what is no longer.
But what happens when the holidays approach and you don’t have the happy memories to balance out the melancholy? What happens when all you have is the absence of the hope of what was to be? I know that quickly became rather vague and philosophical, but not to fear, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise (side note: is breaking the 4th wall in writing a thing?).
Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past.” And “Aiglatson” (“nostalgia” spelled backwards) is “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the future.” So, what term is there that means “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for what never was?” Or “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a future we hoped would be?” I haven’t found one yet, but if there is one, my bet is on the Germans to have thought it up.
When you discover that you’re expecting, the hopes and dreams you have for your future child never seem like only mere possibilities, they are finite realities from day one. This child will have a jungle-themed nursery, this child will only wear organic, fair-trade sustainable cotton onesies, and this child will joyfully sit under that Christmas tree and open his/her first present. But what happens if you have a miscarriage or your baby was stillborn or your baby only lived a short amount of time and never got to do or participate in any of those things? Where is the smile to follow the tears in these situations? There is no sweet to accompany the bitter.
This is my first holiday season experiencing these feelings that I have no way of easily describing, so, obviously, I don’t have an answer to any of these questions nor do I know how to deal with them. But if I am asking these questions, maybe someone else reading this is also asking these questions, and perhaps knowing that we’re not alone in our ponderings could sprinkle in a few glimmers of hope for us this holiday season.
There’s a desire to wrap this up with a happy ending and a bow on top (it is Christmas after all). And to say something along the lines of “we have to be thankful for what we have, embrace every day, and hold on to all of our future memories tightly” would seem an appropriate ending. While I do believe all of that is true, it doesn’t quite suffice for the loss that exists and the sadness that accompanies knowing what some of us will never have.
We’ve set up a fund in our boys' memory that will be used to help other preemies and families in the NICU. If you’re interested in helping, please visit our fundraising page here