Dexter’s First Christmas 2017

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Musings about our first Christmas experience without Dexter Bear…

It’s fair to say since losing Dexter, Christmas was the most horrendous and unimaginable event. I couldn’t even bear to consider it. How could we get through a time that was meant to be full of happy memories, joy and family? Everybody there celebrating Dexter’s First Christmas, just how we’d all imagined in all the memories we’d excitedly created; passing him round while Dave and I tried to eat a luke warm Christmas dinner, dressing him in his ‘My First Christmas’ outfit, reading him ”Twas the night before Christmas’ and making our own family traditions. To say we couldn’t wait was an understatement. This must be one of the happiest and most exciting times when you have children right?

Then we lost Dexter. Dave didn’t want to celebrate any part of Christmas; no wrapped gifts, no dinner, no Christmas tree, nothing – after all, what was there to celebrate?

But ‘Dexter’s 24 Days Of Christmas’ where we did a Random Act Of Kindness each day of Advent changed all of that. We could navigate our way through the thick fog of grief and see love and kindness being spread, all on behalf of our beautiful boy…there was a shift in our feelings. I have always loved Christmas – everything about it, it is just me as a person and I would throw myself into the festive period like I was Mrs Claus herself.
I found myself really wrangling with my feelings about Christmas this year, I would feel myself getting excited about it (like I had for the past 30 years) and then feeling overwhelmingly guilty for feeling like that because I should be sad. Sad that our son, who we had so longed for and was so cruelly taken from us, wouldn’t be with us to celebrate. But the closer and closer that we got to December and as we began our RAOK my feelings began to change, this was Dexter’s First Christmas after all, and yes he wasn’t here how we hoped he would be but this year was always going to be his First Christmas…and it was one we would never get back. There will be so many more Christmases to come and hopefully we will be able to create traditions if we are lucky enough to have a family here on this earth one day but there will never be Dexter’s First Christmas again.
I couldn’t get this thought out of my head – I was then determined to make it memorable, Dexter deserved a special First Christmas – now more than ever.
We bought a tree and decorated it with beautiful bears, rainbows and personalised decorations – some we’d bought but many so kindly gifted from family, friends and some wonderful people I’ve found through Instagram. We haven’t been able to put half of our usual tree decorations up due to the amount of ones we’ve bought and received this year.
Don’t get me wrong, buying a Christmas tree was a difficult day, I cried all the way home – it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Dexter should have been in his pram as we bought our first one as a family. Again though, I wanted his first Christmas to be acknowledged so I dried my eyes and lovingly dressed the tree. Each decoration for Dexter made my heart swell, my eyes fill and my heart hurt but I know it would be a tree he’d be proud of.
As I continued to get into the Christmas spirit, we made the decision that we were going to host this year (usually my mum would) but it was important to us to have Christmas at our house…where Dexter was; his room, his decorations, his home.
So then the preparations began.img_9209.jpg
The hunt was on for bear related items –
napkins, crackers, place settings, tablecloths and centre pieces and anything else I could think of.
I found napkins and a candle from Sainsbury’s, crackers from M&S, place settings from notonthehighstreet (personalised of course) and a tablecloth that we’d bought in the Next sale last year.
All of this brought me joy – seeing bears everywhere brought us comfort, it made us smile, it felt like we could include Dexter in our Christmas, just like he deserved.
A few days before Christmas I had a wobble, a real wobble where I asked Dave if it felt like we were just papering over the cracks. After all, we had got through December relatively unscathed and previously I had convinced myself it would be horrendous and yet so far we were surviving – not only surviving – we were doing quite well. Dave was so good, he listened, he helped me rationalise and then made a very good point; Dexter wasn’t here (I know that sounds very cold and harsh but the reality is he isn’t and nothing we do will change that sadly) and that we wouldn’t be here forever. We had to learn to live alongside this tremendous grief, put one foot in front of the other, look after each other and all the while, continue making memories. That’s what we got married for; in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer and for better or for worse…and this is the worst. But I know if Dexter would have anything to say to us, it would be this – to keep living, keep going and continue making happy memories. Life is far too short so I took my husband’s advice, stopped worrying about what the outside world might think and carried on.
Dave and I woke on Christmas morning in our ‘mummy bear’ and ‘daddy bear’ pyjamas with very heavy hearts, Dexter’s First Christmas and he wasn’t here to celebrate it. His empty stocking was hung in his room and Father Christmas hadn’t been to our house. I cried. Dave cried. We both cried. But that was okay. We had both written Dexter a couple of Christmas cards so we opened them, cried some more and then managed to bring ourselves round. We got up, got the dinner on and waited for my family to arrive.
When they arrived, there were more tears; my mum desperate to be celebrating her grandson’s first Christmas and my brother and sister wanting to shower their nephew with gifts. However, once we’d got that overwhelming sadness out the way we were able to celebrate Dexter’s First Christmas with happiness, love and laughter. We sat together and opened all our gifts, ranging from a beautiful memory box my mum had created for us (cue a few more tears) to NERF guns Dave and I had bought each other, because if you can’t buy a NERF gun for each other after the year we’ve had then I don’t know when you can? They actually ended up being one of the greatest presents we’d ever bought each other providing us with lots of hilarity, screaming and one fat lip when I got shot in the face! We then spent the rest of the day having Christmas lunch (which was epic – even if I do say so myself), eating copious amounts of sweets and chocolate and then playing lots of different board games. I genuinely felt happy, I was surrounded by Dexter’s family, all who love him beyond measure and all who understood why it was important to celebrate Dexter’s First Christmas in this way, with no judgement.
So yes, it has in no way compensated for losing Dexter, nothing ever could but I feel so proud of us. I will look back on this Christmas as one of, if not, my most favourite Christmas I have celebrated. It was full of laughter, love and such happy memories – ones I will look back on fondly for always. I was treated to the most wonderful Christmas present from Dave and a few others too, which I will share with you soon – it’s a corker!
Dexter Bear – I wish with all my heart you had been here to celebrate your first Christmas with us but sadly this wish didn’t come true. What I hope though, is that you know how fiercely we celebrated you, how much we thought of you and how loved you have been (and continue to be) during this festive period and beyond.
Thank you for reading and for anyone else who finds Christmas difficult – I hope it has been gentle on you.
Ruth xxx
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2 thoughts on “Dexter’s First Christmas 2017

  1. Obviously crying my eyes out here and just loving the honesty Ruth, once again a beautiful read and one your little baby would be so proud of. Loving the nerf guns 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

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