‘I pictured a perfect Christmas. I was pregnant with triplets and expected a chaotic holiday. But reality set in more than 4 months prior to my due date.’

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“The turkey is stuffed, the table is set and the sweet aroma of baking pumpkin pies fills the house. As we sit down with our families enjoying a Thanksgiving feast, we’re reminded of all that we’re thankful for. The holiday season is officially here. But for parents who are grieving the loss of a child, the holidays can be an especially difficult time of year.

I always adored the holidays. Growing up, December couldn’t arrive soon enough. With a childhood of beautiful family traditions, I was eager to pass down my favorite moments to my children. In 2013, I pictured a perfect Christmas. I was pregnant with triplets and expected a chaotic holiday, balancing three babies with the never-ending diapers and bottles.

But reality set in more than 4 months prior to my due date when my triplets were born extremely premature. Instead of October, my trio arrived in June, at 22 weeks gestation. And instead of three healthy babies experiencing their first Christmas, I was forced to balance the joy of one survivor with the grief of losing two of my triplets.

Here’s the thing about losing a child — the gut-wrenching, unbearable sadness can arrive without a moment’s notice. As my husband and I decorated our tree, the tears trickled onto the pine needles below. I hung an ornament gifted to us, with the words ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ stretched across. With the cold air whirling outside, a gust of grief arrived at my front door. Suddenly it hit me. I should have three children to create memories with, but instead, Parker and Abby were in heaven.

Courtesy of Stacey Skrysak

Those first holidays and anniversaries can be excruciating for parents who have lost a child. Instead of celebrating with Santa, we are visiting the graves of our children. The happiest occasions can often bring out the darkest grief.

I expected the grief to dissipate, but instead, it became a steady part of our lives. I wish I could say that time heals all wounds, but as any parent of loss will tell you, grief never goes away, it only changes over time.

As the years pass by, life has changed for the better. I have found a beautiful balance of honoring my children in Heaven, while celebrating their sister here on earth. My husband and I no longer hold onto the guilt or spend hours dwelling on what could have been. These days, we join in the excitement watching our daughter experience the joy and magic of the season.

Our Christmas tree is a collection of Peyton’s creations, mixed with mementos to honor Parker and Abby. The holidays are a time for reflection and hope — a chance to see the beauty in this world and to be grateful for all that life has given me. As I look at three little baby booties hanging perfectly on our tree, I can’t help but get choked up. Two of my children may not be here on earth, but my love for them will never go away.

Courtesy of Stacey Skrysak

As you share in the joy of the holiday season, please be kind to those whose hearts may be hurting. Whether you’ve lost a child, a parent, or any loved one, the holidays are a difficult time of year.

It’s been more than five years since I lost two of my children, yet I know there will be moments of sadness and heartache. And that’s OK. That’s part of the balance of parenting between Heaven and earth. But as the tears flow, the grief will be mixed with laughter and smiles. It took me years, but I have found happiness and life after loss.

We may only have one child physically here, but we are a family of five. And as my daughter squeals with excitement in the coming weeks, her brother and sister will be close by. Our two guardian angels will be celebrating with us, with peace and love and holiday cheer from above. After a day of too many toys and sweets, I will tuck Peyton into bed as I tell her how special she is. And as I kiss her goodnight and tell her I love her, I’ll look up to the sky and whisper to heaven, ‘Merry Christmas. I love you Parker and Abby.’”

This story was written by Stacey Skrysak, an award winning television journalist based in Illinois. You can follow her on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more about Stacey’s triplets here:

‘Are you ready to hold your daughter?,’ asked the nurse. I looked at her confused, my broken heart beating quickly.’

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