For the past 7 years my husband and I looked forward to highlighting all four children in our Christmas cards that we sent out every year to family and friends.  I felt like it reinforced how hard we worked to blend our families and how truly blessed we were that all four kids had become close to one another.  We had so much fun picking out the pictures of our kids and laying out the perfect card that highlighted all four of them in their best light.  Since we were a blended family we made the decision early on that he and I would never have a biological child of our own because we felt we needed to focus 100% on the four that we already had.    There were times when we barely saw each other during the week since he and I were racing each child to practices, rehearsals, birthday parties, dances, and everything else that four thriving teens experience in their adolescent years.  It’s what made us cherish our time together even more because it was a rarity, especially over the past few years.

When my husband died, I knew that our lives were going to change forever. The only thing that would blend us together would be the grief that we shared.  Emotionally, I feel like my husband’s passing brought us all closer but physically, it’s separated us because of the busy schedules we all manage on a day to day basis.  Trying to get all 5 of us together for dinner one night a week is like figuring out a very intricate puzzle.  When we do get together it’s like no time has passed and I enjoy seeing the relationships all four kids have cultivated with one another over the years.  We were and still are truly blessed with four extraordinary human beings who continue to make me beam with pride (and I have no doubt their father and stepfather is beaming from heaven).

The thought of sending out Christmas cards without all four kids this year was a heavy weight on my heart.  I finally realized this was the “new normal” everybody was telling me I’d experience when death hits a blended family.  As if life hasn’t changed enough, it has been the small things that sometimes hit the most with the highest of emotions.  As I was wrapping Christmas presents tonight I realized my new normal is now signing the gift tags with just one name as opposed to two.  Instead of 6 people opening gifts on Christmas morning there will be 3 less people; one in heaven and my two stepchildren with their mom (as it should be).  Instead of 6 people in the picture there are now three.  But this new normal is my life now, and it is the perfect example of how I need to embrace what I DO have as opposed to what I DON’T have anymore.  As the three of us took our Christmas photos this year, I felt love, joy, blessings and pride towards these two beautiful boys I gave birth to who are growing up to be kind, sensitive, caring, bright young men.  It’s amazing how life can turn in an instant when you start to think this way and just enjoy the moment.   They are my rocks and I am their anchor.  If you ask me, that’s a pretty strong combination.  I am looking forward to spending an early Christmas with my boys and my stepchildren, and I look forward to everything I’ll always be able to share with all four of them together.  It’s our new normal and our way of moving forward.

Below are some of the pictures we took this year.  I am a big fan of taking as many snapshots of love and life as possible because they capture memories that will always be a gift that can be left behind when a loved one passes.  To me there is no better gift.

Photos by Nathalie Bize

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