My First Christmas Without Jaden

by Ruth Stoecker

JadenMany families share the pain of Christmas without their child and how the extended family reacts to them at that traditional Christmas get-together. It is so common to ‘just pretend’; just pretend that all is well! They seem to think that maybe if they don’t talk about it, don’t even mention her/his name, the day will be more pleasant, not so awkward… maybe it will be like it really didn’t happen… And there, in the room, is an elephant the size of King Kong and everyone steps around it.

I remember my first Christmas without Jaden. Really, I don’t remember my first Christmas very well as Jaden had only died a couple of weeks earlier, and I was still so very numb. But, I do remember one beautiful gesture, and how after all these years, it still brings tears, a warming in my heart and a deep gratitude for this person. My niece walked in the door, family was all around, she acknowledged no one, she simply came to me, took me in her arms and said, “Oh, my auntie, how I love you”. I remember breaking down, and her leading me into the bedroom where we sat simply holding each other and sobbing. It was the best present anyone could have given me. Often, that’s all we need, just that chance, that opportunity, that moment. The time when our child is acknowledged… our loss is appreciated and it’s out there, and out of the shadows… it’s safe…. My child is missing today, he should be here, I am dying inside! – then we can go on, maybe eat some turkey, enjoy another child opening a gift, chuckle at a silly incident and do Christmas…

Ruth’s other writings:
This Promise Always, I’ll Be There

Ruth son, Jaden, died in 1999 at the age of 22 as the result of a motor vehicle accident.