Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Cards, written to a family of 5 that looks like a family of 4

I think I've always confused people on how to address cards to our family.  When Justin and I got married, I added his last name to mine, making what is called a "double-barrel" last name.  I explain it as "like it's hyphenated, but without the hyphen."  I didn't want to lose my name, my history, my family.  And adding Justin's last name was not really about Justin.  It was about the children we planned to have.  I wanted to share their name.  To quote my favorite band The Avett Brothers, "Always remember there is nothing worth sharing like the love that lets us share a name."  I wanted to be both, and so I am.

The biggest downside of this name is that no one gets it right.  The first time someone skipped my last name and called me only by Justin's - in a placecard at a wedding, I texted my sister in a fury.  I remember her response: "it's not an insult."

Five years later, I'm no longer insulted.  I know my name is difficult, and I always really appreciate the people who spend the time and energy to get it right.

So it's been interesting to see how my friends address cards to us.  I know it's not easy to write Justin's and my names together.  That's another downside of the double-barrel.

But this is the first year I have thrown Christmas cards in the trash.

It may be tough to know how to address cards to our family, but the ones that make no mention of Lydia are very hurtful to me.

My favorite cards are the ones that come addressed to all of us: Justin, Heather, Ben, Lydie, and Josie, or some variation.  I appreciate those cards so much.  I don't want to recycle even the envelopes, because I just want to stare at all our names in print together.  And it doesn't even bother me that my family name is not included, because even I know when too much is too much.

While I recognize that not everyone feels comfortable addressing a card to someone who has died, I am shocked by cards that make no mention of my middle daughter at all.  They read, "Dear Heather, Justin, Ben, and Josie: Merry Christmas."  I think, are you (fucking) kidding?  Do you know how hard Christmas is for parents whose child died?  (Clearly, the answer is no, they don't.)  Do you know our biggest fear is that people will forget our child?  (And again, apparently not).

I thought I'd feel better after promptly trashing (err, recycling) one of those cards.  But I didn't.   And so soon, I emailed the sender, and explained that Lydia is as much a part of our family as Benjamin and Josephine are and I find it very hurtful when she is not acknowledged.

Let me say that again: Lydia is just as much as part of our family as Benjamin and Josephine.

One friend explained it well and was much nicer than me, when posting on Facebook: "If you're sending a Christmas card and wondering whether to mention our son, please do.  Thoughts of him are always appreciated, ignoring his existence always hurts."

Ignoring her existence hurts.  It really hurts. It always hurts.

And in this season, which is already so difficult for grieving parents (Christmas is about a birth of a baby, for crying out loud) and families who are missing someone so intensely, those Christmas cards can cause so much pain.  I know if you're bothering to mail us a Christmas card, you have good intentions.  I know that.

It's just that a little note included like "Thinking of Lydie" goes a long, long way.  As I said in my last post, a little compassion goes a long way.


6 comments:

  1. Any version that includes Eloise is fine by me, the ones that completely leave her out aren't only unwanted, they're just plain hurtful. I'm so with you on this. XO

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  2. I know people have good intentions, but I've NEVER understood how someone could wish us a merry Christmas and NOT say "Remembering Eliza" or just "thinking of you this Christmas" (especially the first year or two, after losing our baby in December for crying out loud). It seems so thoughtless, which is the opposite of what Christmas cards are supposed to be, you know?

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  3. Oh gosh, I've been too out of it to even pay attention to most our Christmas cards, but the ones that include Matthew will go a long way for sure. xoxo, Christine

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  4. Heather, So crazy you wrote this post.

    I just vented to my therapist today how angry I feel receiving the cards this year. Very few senders have mentioned our loss, thinking of you, or Heidi at all. She hasn't even been gone six months. Perhaps calling attention to our grief or our dead daughter on their happy card is too uncomfortable for them, but for us it would mean so much. The "Merry, Joy, and Blessings" with pictures of whole intact families is just a bit of a trigger for me. I am kind of relieved to know I am not alone . I guess this is just part of the trauma and loss. "Difficult" is an understatement.

    I will be thinking of your family and your Lydie as well when we light our candle for Heidi on Christmas. Kim

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  5. Thank you for so painstakingly documenting your grief and healing. For those of us who aren't BLMs, but have friends (and friends of friends) who are, you've helped us to be more knowledgeable, aware and thoughtful. I think most people would not think to include all family names for fear that it brings down the happy purpose of a holiday card. But I'm sure you're always thinking of Lydia, and the absence of her name is as much a reminder as including it...though far less considerate. I think you can assume that people writing you are certainly remembering her, even if they don't say so explicitly. There are many ways that friends and family show love, but we're not always on the same page on how to properly express it. Your posts like this one help so much!

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  6. Thank you for so painstakingly documenting your grief and healing. For those of us who aren't BLMs, but have friends (and friends of friends) who are, you've helped us to be more knowledgeable, aware and thoughtful. I think most people would not think to include all family names for fear that it brings down the happy purpose of a holiday card. But I'm sure you're always thinking of Lydia, and the absence of her name is as much a reminder as including it...though far less considerate. I think you can assume that people writing you are certainly remembering her, even if they don't say so explicitly. There are many ways that friends and family show love, but we're not always on the same page on how to properly express it. Your posts like this one help so much!

    ReplyDelete

 
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