Missing a loved one at the “most wonderful time of year” is always hard. Grief loves to squeeze into the happy moments and remind us that they could be a little happier, “if only…”
When you’ve had years of holidays with someone, their absence is blaring in how it changes the holiday season. You’ve got memories to work with, traditions that have been set and lived, and things to highlight or avoid as you process your grief. There are many ways to cope. Cook their favorite food. Spend time reminiscing on their favorite holiday traditions. Put out special decorations. Or skip the decorations. Skip the old traditions and do something new. Change things up. Do what you need to make this holiday bearable in difference from all the other years.
Losing a baby, especially during pregnancy, is complicated. If you are reading this after your miscarriage or stillbirth, that title should actually read: honoring your baby this holiday – honoring your very missed, very wanted baby that is not here to celebrate with you, this holiday. Because that is what they are, your baby.
The moment we found out we were pregnant with our twins I began imagining what Christmas would be like. When they were still seedlings, I began preparing for our lives together. I planned on getting them stockings, arranging family get-togethers around their naps, putting them in boy and girl versions of silly Christmas outfits and using our Christmas cards as their birth announcements.
Losing your baby while you are still burgeoning with expectation and hope rolls in the grief mud differently. It’s messy but often unseen. It’s easily bypassed by others because they didn’t get a chance to share your little one with you. It often feels huge and weighty and also unreal – like, did this really happen? One of the hardest parts of grief is when you realize that the world moves on anyways, and when you’ve lost your baby the Christmas season is especially brutal in reminding you that nothing has changed this year. Only everything changed for you.
We made it through last Christmas, it ached and not a moment went by that I didn’t wish I had two sets of little hand grabbing at wrapping paper. But we did make it through last year, and I wanted to share a couple of ways that helped us cope in case it might spark some ideas for anyone else grieving their baby this year.
- Change things up anyway. I changed things up even though they didn’t change for anyone else. I decorated our house for Christmas, even though I debated skipping it altogether. But I put everything in a different spot than before. I moved our tree to a different room. I put the many snowman figures in different places. I even dressed the front door differently. I changed it up anyway, because I would’ve changed it up for them. And I cried the entire time.
- Add something to your decorations in remembrance. I ordered a special ornament. Thanks to Etsy I found a fantastic artist who was able to etch their little hands (from our hospital imprint) and names onto a glass ornament. I hung it front and center on the tree and whispered: “Merry Christmas darlings” as often as I wanted.
- Wear a marker (even if only you know). I wore a pin on my outfit signifying pregnancy and infant loss. The pink and blue ribbon felt special since we had lost a son and daughter. It also helped me feel like I was somehow bringing them with me to each gathering.
- Say their names (or how you identified them). This can be especially helpful coming from family or friends. My family said their names. They remembered them and made sure I knew it. Not in an overt, big way because I didn’t want to cry the day of celebration. But gently and with meaning. My sister donated to March of Dimes in our kids’ names and gave me the certificate in a card. My mother bought them a lily plant and put a tag to them on it. Small, simple gestures that said, “yes, they were here.”
There are many other things you could do in honor of your baby. Set out candles, buy toys and donate them or decorate a special tree. As the years go by, we may incorporate some of these ideas. I’m fortunate to have my rainbow son here with us to celebrate this year, and we are setting some new traditions with him. This blessing is not lost on me as I know that not all loss parents are able to say that.
Even so, my mouse has hovered over the “add to cart” on several stocking choices because my brain keeps thinking “if only I was buying 3 …” Because the over-early over-planner in me hasn’t fully resurfaced from my loss. I’m still figuring out what this will all look like each year. And that’s OK. Things will be special for my son, and our twins will be missed. Both feelings can co-exist.
If you are grieving your beloved baby this year, I hope this tell you that you are not alone. My wish for you this year is a chance to celebrate your love for them along with all the other celebrations.