December, 2002 ~ Remembering during the holidays: What are some ways I can include and remember my baby in our Christmas celebrations?
From Ann Douglas . . .
It's only natural to want to find ways to honour your baby's memory during the holiday season. After all, many of our holiday
celebrations focus on family -- something that only serves to make us acutely aware of those family members who are no longer with us. It's important to take time to honor your baby's memory in the midst of the hustle and bustle. Once you have done that, you may find it easier to allow yourself to experience the many joys of the holiday season. (Some bereaved parents find it difficult to give themselves "permission" to allow joy in their lives again following the death of their baby.)
Don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking of your baby at unexpected times during the holiday season -- like when you hear
Christmas music at the mall or on the radio. (Hearing "Blue Christmas" still moves me to tears because it makes me remember that awful Christmas Eve when I found myself with an empty belly and a broken heart, wondering how on earth I was going to face my stillborn baby's due date the following month.)
The year Laura was stillborn, I purchased a special Christmas ornament in her honor. That ornament gets hung on the Christmas tree every year. I also make a donation in her memory to an organization that provides support to parents who have experienced the death of a baby, and I make a point of visiting Laura's gravesite at least once during the holiday season -- my symbolic way of letting her know that she is loved and missed.
Last year, I attended a candlelight service for bereaved families that was organized by Perinatal Bereavement Services Ontario. I was very touched by one of the elements in the service. Each bereaved parent was given the opportunity to walk to the front of the room, say a few words about their baby, and light
a candle in their baby's honor. At the end of the evening, everyone got to take home the candle that they had lit for their baby. You might consider recreating such a ritual with a group of family members and friends who understand how much you are missing your baby during this special family time of year.
Gentle good wishes,
Since my twins' birthdays are on Christmas Day, I have to plan special events to get me through the day. I have pictures of my children in small gold frames to hang on our tree. We light candles to burn during dinner in memory of my boys and my parents. Prior to dinner, the entire family goes to the cemetery to launch balloons. Our tree is decorated with rose ornaments which are a symbol of my three boys.
The Sunday prior to Christmas we provide the chancel flowers for our church in memory of our boys.
The Christmas holidays are a time to think of the birth of baby Jesus - oh how hard when you have recently had a beloved baby die!!! I remember crying at these glorious holiday celebrations at church for years. I didn't go intending to cry, but couldn't help it. It is painful to think of babies at all. Then there is this special baby Jesus and we probably ask God "Why?" even more. Why me? Why now? Why ever? Remember, however, God felt deep pain when his son died, too.
So in addition to it being tough to be with family in a celebratory way while our baby often goes unmentioned (not usually forgotten, however), we have the added part of God's role in all of this which is not easily understood for most of us.
How to deal with this varies and there are lots of options, but doing special things to remember can and does usually help. Here are some tips for remembering coming straight from my book, Coping with the Holidays and Other Celebrations:
- Buy or make a special ornament or memento to display. Put your child's name on it, along with significant dates.
- Light a candle during the festivities as a reminder of your child. Either tell others the significance of the lit candle, or write a poem or note to set near it as an explanation.
- Make a donation to a children's hospital, a gift drive for needy children or some other meaningful charity in memory of your baby. Or volunteer your time to a local charity.
- Get a plant for indoors or to plant in your yard to honor your child. Some families give bulbs or flower seeds to family members to plant in their yards honoring your child.
- Take holiday decorations to the cemetery.
- Ask a local church or hospital if they have a memorial ceremony near the holidays that you could attend.
- Write in a journal or diary - time will come when it won't be so raw and you'll want to remember your feelings and your memories closer to the day.
- Say your child's name out loud and encourage others to do the same. You are his/her parent, this is your baby. You are forever bonded, forever related and will forever remember.
These are but a few of the ideas that could be helpful during this time.
Remember to trust your heart. And know that you have every right to keep your baby's memory alive and he/she will always be your beloved child . . . and if you have faith and believe in Jesus, you will meet again in heaven.
Here are some ideas for including and remembering your baby during the holidays:
- Buy a special candle. When you light it during the holiday season take a moment to think of your baby and remember the love you still share.
- If this is your first Christmas since losing your baby think of including a note in your Christmas cards about how you are doing. We did this the first Christmas after losing our son. It let people know it was okay to talk about Brycen and also reminded people that we were still very sad and that the holidays were going to be difficult for us. Several people commented on the letters and I am glad we sent them.
- Buy an ink stamp that reminds you of your baby to use when signing Christmas cards. We use blue ink and a stamp with a baby hanging from a bucket on the moon catching stars. In the moon we sign his name. Having the opportunity to write the name we so lovingly chose brings much comfort. A similar idea is to choose a hole punch such as an angel and punch the corner of your Christmas cards.
- Donate money to a charity. Maybe buy toys or clothes for a needy child. Also, some charities have Trees of Light at Christmas and you can buy a light in memory of your child. Or you could give to a charity for children such as The March of Dimes, SIDS Alliance, Easter Seals etc. You could keep a special book of gifts given in your baby's name.
- Buy an ornament in memory of your baby. We do this every year and we also give an ornament in his memory to close family members.
- Call your local hospital or support group and see if there is a holiday memorial for bereaved parents.
- Name a star for your baby. Looking into the holiday sky will take on new meaning and significance.
www.starregistry.com or 1-800-282-3333
- My mother decorates a small tabletop tree with only angels and has Brycen's picture sitting in front of it.
- Many newspapers have holiday memorial pages for which you can submit a picture and note. If you do not have a picture or are not comfortable using it, maybe submit a note such as, "You are never forgotten. Merry Christmas sweet baby! Love, Mommy and Daddy."
- Set aside time to think of your baby. This may mean going through your baby's things, writing a letter to your baby or writing in a journal. It may even mean having a good cry.
- Decorate your baby's grave, scattering grounds, or area around the urn. If you have none of these pick an area of your home or yard and decorate it in memory of your baby.
I hope these suggestions give you some ideas. Including our son in the holidays helps to ease our sorrow at not having him here with us. We also hope it will help our daughter have a connection with the brother she never met. Whatever you decide to do to remember your baby during the holidays, may it bring you some comfort and peace.
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