The Empty Highchair
Holiday grief is a real thing. As I walk around my house admiring the Christmas lights, I found myself getting stuck in the dining room. The center of our home. The hub of activity. The place where the important things happen.
We’ve set up a Christmas display--with greenery, lights, and a couple of nativities. Families and babies are everywhere. In our home, celebrating new life and waiting for Christmas is a big deal. And, as I moved around, admiring and tidying up, breathing a sigh of relief as I had just gotten the kids off to preschool for the day, I got stuck.
Next to this beautiful Christmas tree is an empty highchair. A chair that we have not put away after James outgrew it because we were supposed to be welcoming a new baby at the end of this year. In addition to the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we should have been preparing for the hustle and bustle of a third child into our family. We would have been snugging a new bundle in the warm glow of the Christmas tree. We should have been hunkering down and laughing about balancing cookies on a big round belly.
But we aren’t. Our baby was lost. “Miscarriage” isn’t a word that quite contains the grief and loss and anger. The word itself made me feel as though I had done something wrong, that I hadn’t carried my baby well. The circumstances around miscarriage are so delicate and unique to everyone, and so often unknown. Loss was a much better word for it. In the days and weeks immediately following the loss of this baby, I remember feeling lost myself. The different experiences that people have around grief and loss are too often unspoken, and I myself had swallowed up much of this. I got out of bed. I cared for my other children. I went back to work. I laughed. I loved. I longed for the newborn baby smell in quiet moments. I didn’t fight back when my other children wanted to sleep in my bed and snuggle up close to me. I covered my loss with activity, with laughter, with love. I thought that healing was more like a highway than a mountain road.
When we lost our baby, we didn’t realize that the grief would still be settling in even now, at Christmas. We thought this baby was a sign, a little message of hope, because he or she would be born right around our anniversary. We were excited. We were filled with joy.
And now I have an empty highchair that I have to decide what to do with.
Do I put it in the garage? If I do that I’ll probably feel the same way every time I bump into it.
Do I throw it away? That feels harsh.
Or, do I leave it as an empty seat at our table as a way of silently remembering the baby that we didn’t get to meet?
Yes, an empty seat. An empty high chair.
A place for baby.
A space to remember.
Seasons change, and months later, as snow falls in our sleepy neighborhood, I feel the ache of loss. The music plays, the lights twinkle, and there are no little fingers gripping my shirt. My sons are missing their brother or sister. My husband is missing his child.
But loss doesn’t have to be lost. It can be life-giving, can’t it?
Perhaps your loss this holiday season isn’t for a child, although 1 in 4 women experience this.
Perhaps your loss isn’t even for a person.
It’s ok to grief as much, or as little, as you need to. Grief comes in waves and is so unpredictable.
My team, my tribe of fierce warrior women, my BWP sisters and I are attacking grief at the beginning of 2021. Our Brave Women Project will allow us to move through grief, wherever it pops up, and be life-giving once again.
Follow us on Instagram @bravewomenproject and be first to know about our new vision for a better year.