Our family tends to be a little late in the game for getting ready for the holidays. So there I was on the 23rd, pulling out the Christmas decorations. I was searching for a book to read on Christmas morning to the pre-K-K Sunday School class. In the third box I opened, I found the stockings. I began pulling them out and laying them on top of a box of ornaments when staring up from the bottom of the box was Sean’s stocking. I lifted it out of the box and a million emotions flooded me followed by a number of thoughts.
Do we hang it?
Do I mention it?
I certainly am not going to get rid of it, but will this become my new holiday tradition of finding his old stocking and weeping?
Should I move it somewhere I won’t keep bumping into it?
With the items I needed removed, I returned it to the box and tucked it back in the closet. I did’t know how everyone else would feel, and I didn’t want to create an issue that didn’t need to exist. But the next day, my daughter told me that she thought we should hang his stocking. I disagreed. I explained my reasoning, how we hadn’t hung it since he stopped sleeping over on Christmas Eve, and how I feared hanging it would create a tradition that would be difficult to stop.
As a parent I also worry that I might let my processing of grief hinder my children who might have different grief needs than I do. Parenting multiple children through grief while grieving yourself adds an entirely different dimension to every decision made, and one might be surprised just how many decisions one actually faces in life as you adjust to a new normal.
So his stocking didn’t get hung. It sat empty in a box in the a closet under our stairs.
Christmas came and went. Tears were shed. Memories recollected. And a whole new set of memories made for the first time without Sean. One more hurdle in the grief process was crossed although not gracefully.
Life after loss will always be a little bittersweet. There will always be the “should have been here” moments. Sorrow will always seep into every sweet family celebration. The grief will change, but it will never be fully gone. I have experienced enough of its ways to know this truth.
There will always be the stocking that doesn’t get hung.