It's Christmas Day.
I can hear laughter from my living room where some of my children are playing a game.
I can hear my son playing by himself with his new lego. The smell of home made soup is wafting in from the kitchen, and the sound of Pentatonix Christmas songs is soothing and surrounds me.
I look forward to time with my brother and his family this evening, and I smile at the laughs, the conversations, and the joys of last night; when I spent Christmas with my family.
It's a beautiful time of year, and yet, I hear the quiet of a child that will never join us for Christmas.
I see a smile, and a face that I will never know.
I know a child, who will never grace my presence during the holiday season.
And then it prompted me to think of those who have lost a loved one.
I have lost a boy whom I never knew. I heard his heart beat fill the doctors office, and I felt his small kicks within me, but yet, he was still a boy I never knew.
So what about those who have known someone; whether for hours, days, weeks, months or years, and have had to say good-bye.
What about the void that is there for them this season?
The empty place at the table, the silence at gatherings, and the missing link to a chain of family and friends when we gather around with those we love during the holidays.
Perhaps there is a way to help those who are struggling with the loss of a loved one this season.
I have sat thinking about what I would like people to know and it's only through that, that I can even have a glimpse of what to do for others.
So if you know someone who has lost a loved one in the past year, or perhaps even 5 years ago,
consider the following things this coming week.
Respect those who may be struggling this holiday season.
We may not understand, we may think it should be easy to embrace and surround others and be joyful. It's far too easy for us to look at those suffering and think, "Well focus on the positive. Don't be negative".
But we are all individuals who find different things difficult, who cope in different ways and who struggle with different issues.
So let's respect that there may be some just going through the motions for others, or perhaps do not feel like celebrating at all. It may even be that many people find it difficult just to get through the holiday season.
Allow the person grieving to vocalize and show emotion.
Sometimes all we need is a good cry, or an ear and shoulder. We need to shed tears for those lost, those never known, and those we are missing.
Or perhaps the memories of Christmas' past will take them to a place of bittersweet joy and sorrow. Remembering with a smile and yet having the memories hurt. Allow them to do this with you, or perhaps they need space to do this on their own. Let them lean on you if they need it.
Maybe in memory of the lost loved one, ask them if they have considered starting a new tradition. Rejoice in the life that they have lost.
Maybe this means buying them an ornament for their tree. Maybe it's a time of sharing eggnog (and rum) over anecdotes of the loved one past. Whatever it takes to have the day perhaps surprise them; do that, and be there.
Be patient and give them time. There is no hard and fast rule for how they should get over the years. Everyone must go at their own pace. But one thing is for sure; the support they receive will be a direct reflection of how they are doing this holiday season.
Every year around Christmas, I feel an empty place for my child.
His ornament adorns my tree, and every day on December 16th, I tell my children his birth story, just as I tell them their own.
It still amazes me that 5 years later, amongst the laughter of my six children, that I still hear the silence of a laughter that is missing.
He is missed, and he is loved. I still think of him, but the pain is not what it was that first Christmas.
But I had support, and I hope that whether you know someone who may be struggling, or are struggling yourself; that you find the support you need this Holiday Season.
May we be surrounded by love and family and friends, and yet if you need the space this year just to simply reflect; may you have peace and love in that as well.
Merry Christmas to all... from my house to yours.