When we think of the holiday season, generally our thoughts lead to feelings of happiness and joy. Celebrations and parties come to mind. There are visions of bright, twinkling lights and festive decorations, the smell of cookies baking and the sounds of carolers on the doorstep.
For me, the Christmas season is a time of stress and mixed emotions. It is a time of balancing family traditions from before Tabitha's death with new traditions, created because of Tabitha's death.
Our family kicks off the holidays by serving lunch at Ronald McDonald House. We choose a date close to Thanksgiving day to show our gratitude for the support and services that were available to us during Tabitha's hospital stay. Thanksgiving has taken on a new meaning. We are reminded that we are thankful for every second that we breathe and for having one another. We are grateful for the positive changes in our lifestyle that came about following and, yes, because of, Tabitha's death.
On Thanksgiving weekend, we take our living children to visit Santa Claus. We bring a picture of Tabitha along so she can be part of that visit. Our home is decorated with Christmas trees, lights, stockings and wreaths. Tabitha's stocking is hung on the fireplace alongside those of her siblings and there is a special tree, decorated with angels and stars, dedicated to her.
Throughout the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we bake cookies together, sing carols, enjoy the sight of the twinkling lights and attend holiday events and parties. As we do these things, my mind cannot help to think how it would be different if Tabitha were still alive.
On Christmas Day and New Year's Day, we celebrate with our families. On the surface, these appear to be normal family holiday gatherings. And, mostly, they are. However, I have searched out places to escape, when needed. I find a spot to remind myself that I must focus on my living children and their joy. And, each year, I am both glad and grateful that we are able to celebrate.
Amanda is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Independent Author Network. Her first book, "Stella's Story: Dealing With Sibling Loss" is a winner of a 2018 Purple Dragonfly Award.