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A grandmother kinship carer, raising her granddaughter under a Special Guardianship Order. She is also a professional proofreader and loves to write.
Christmas 2009 may now be a thing of the past, but it is true that the past never leaves you.
I am conscious of the fact that I endured this empty Christmas only once. I am aware that I was very fortunate because there are parents and birth family members who go through this experience year after year and on birthdays too. There are no words to describe how such significant occasions feel for the person who is desperately missing a much-loved child. I can only imagine the anguish such family members, birth parents and grandparents, endure for not one year only but for many, many years.
It is true to say that once my sons were grown up, our Christmases became adult occasions and this was fine of course. But Christmas is special for children and this particular year my granddaughter had arrived amidst much joy overshadowed with anxiety for the future.
Our baby girl was absent, I longed to feel her, feed her, play with her and watch her play, fill up her stocking, and do all the fun Christmassy things that families do. But she was being made a fuss of at someone else’s house and would be part of their family for almost another year.
My granddaughter was born in August 2009 and she was four months at her first Christmas when she was in foster care. Around this time our meetings with her were few and far between because the foster carers were snowed in and they could not get their car out of the drive to bring her to the contact centre.
Eventually, the social work service manager arranged a special pre-Christmas contact day for us with our granddaughter and, overjoyed to see her, we were able to take the enormous sack of toys collected from all the family members for the foster carers to give to her on Christmas Day.
This particular Christmas just came and went. For us, there was nothing to celebrate – I remember how pointless this was without our grandchild and it meant nothing to me at all.
There was an emptiness in the air and an empty space, a little person missing, an adored family member. I wanted Christmas to be over and for my dream that this empty, pointless feeling would never happen again, to come true.
That dream did come true. My granddaughter, now aged 16 months came to live with us on the 14th December 2010. We had our first Christmas tree up for her prettily decorated with lots of interesting little baubles for her to explore. We could celebrate to our heart’s content, and again, there was a variety of presents for her from all the family – but this time we could open them for her and see her delight and joy, she could sit with us in her high chair, enjoy her dinner and little treats and try to pull crackers with us amidst squeals of delight.
And for me, my partner and my elder son we had the very best Christmas present ever – our darling little girl who was to bring us so much joy and pride in the coming years. Just as there are no words to express our feelings of emptiness, desolation and sadness at that bleak Christmas 2009, equally there are insufficient words to demonstrate how happy and joyous we all were at Christmas 2010 and every subsequent year when we have been able to spoil her to our heart’s content and watch her having fun and enjoyment with us.
We are so fortunate to have our adored, funny and beautiful granddaughter with us. All the time I see, on Facebook groups, grandparents who are devoted to their grandchildren in care but not allowed to raise them for whatever reason. And birth parents who perhaps with a little more support could have avoided the heartache of their children being removed. Maybe nothing can be done in the case where loving birth families are separated from their adored children, and Christmas just highlights the sadness and despair these birth family members feel. However, a little understanding and support goes a long way – please remember the anguish of some birth family members at Christmas and special occasions.