Surviving Baby Loss During The Holidays

November 30, 2018

By Sanda Rathamone


"Christmas in Heaven, what do they do? They come down to Earth to spend it with you. So save them a seat, just one empty chair. You may not see them, but they will be there."

The holidays are not always the happiest for everyone. Some of us are struggling to survive through the holiday cheer and Christmas season without our loved ones.

Some of us are mothers and fathers to children who will never get their first Santa photo, see the twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, receive presents from friends and family, or have been read to from books like 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Among all of the Christmas decor on store fronts, the endless toys, brightly lit trees and houses, and most of all, the babies and children lining up to sit on Santa's lap or a photo posted on your Facebook or Instagram of a baby holding an ornament, the grief heightens. All we can think about is how wonderful it would be to hold our babies during this child-centered holiday and how much it hurts to be without them. 

Because they were supposed to be here. 

I used to love Christmas growing up - not because of the presents, but because it was a day that we - as a family - would spend surrounded by our love and excitement of giving and enjoying each other’s presence. 

During childhood, my mother and stepfather would drive us five kids an hour away to Santa Rosa, visiting close family friends. 

On some Christmases, my brothers and sisters and I would help our older "cousins" set up the tree. Over the next couple or few days, presents would pile up under the tree. Other times, the tree would have already been set up upon our arrival and we would try to peak at the presents for our names and place the ones that my mother brought on top of the already huge pile. 

We would have to wait until Christmas morning to eat the delicious Christmas breakfast-lunch-and-dinner (just like Thanksgiving) and then open presents. We would spend the whole day playing with our toys, proudly showing and sharing what we got, and watched a lot of Christmas movies and cartoons. We would take photos and my cousins would put them in albums, which we would later reopen - remembering how much fun we had and young we looked.

I would have loved to keep this a tradition with my own family some day...

As I grew older, my Christmases became less and less exciting and family oriented - until I met my husband.

This Christmas, Elijah would be thirteen, almost fourteen months old. There is no other Christmas wish that I would have loved to come true, other than to have my baby in my arms while standing next to a sparkling Christmas tree. Although Christmas is also our anniversary, it will now - and in the future - bring some sadness because of Elijah's passing. 

I haven't found the perfect way to spend Christmas, since the first one without Elijah was the most difficult holiday for me. And, I am most likely going to resign from Christmas eve spent with the in-laws for awhile. I still need time to figure out how I want to spend "family" holidays with grief. 

So, I made a list of tips and ideas that may help other parents through baby loss during the holiday season. Some of these ideas are what I am actually doing myself.


Tip #1. Don't feel pressured to do anything that you are not ready to do

Be ready to say, "No" and don't feel bad about it! It's important to voice your needs and let others know that you have boundaries. You are allowed to seek and do what is best for you and stand up for yourself. No one should make you feel guilty or pressure you into making any decisions!

If necessary - be open to encouragement. Encouragement should always feel comforting, welcoming, and understanding.

Make sure that what you do is not based on what is expected of you, but rather helps ease the grief. The heart knows what it needs.

Tip #2. Take time to breathe

Try taking a time-out every now and then. If you could just set aside at least five minutes before, during, and/or after a busy day and tune into silence, you will feel better!

Go to a quiet place and just close your eyes and listen to your breathing - this helps recenter the mind and release tension. Breathing is like a "reboot" for the body. And it's totally okay to not be a busybody! Even doing nothing for a moment is good for you. A great resource for breathing exercises can be found on YouTube, podcasts, and apps such as Insight Timer and Calm.

Send love notes to your body by taking deep breaths.

Tip #3. Get some much needed rest and relax 

Keep calm and stay calm. Find activities that don't require strenuous work. Coloring therapy, Netflix, and short nature walks are great examples of relaxing activities.

Go on a spa day (if your budget permits). Or, pamper yourself at home with masks, bath bombs, foot soak, self-massage, aromatherapy, calming music, fruits and chocolate, and cucumber water. Treat yourself.

If you're low on energy, catch up on sleep in comfy pajamas. Grieving is hard work and you've worked hard.

Tip #4. Remember that you are not grieving alone

There are many others grieving during the holidays - you are not alone! Join a group and talk about how the holidays are treating you, as you will most likely find someone who shares a similar experience.

You can find lots of groups for grieving parents on Facebook and other online websites. Some online resources are listed in the links and resources page.

Tip #5. Express and embrace your grief during the holidays

Don't be ashamed for needing to share how much you miss your little one. Tell and show the world that your baby deserves to be mentioned during this time and that the holidays should include those who are not able to celebrate. Don't worry about those who make you feel bad. There will always be someone who understands and will show you some support - one of them being myself!

Expression is freedom, let yourself soar by sharing your truth.

Ideas:

#1. Get creative! Make ornaments or dive into memorial projects.


I made an ornament for Elijah and it turned out to be something that I would love to see on the tree every year from now on. Materials are listed below: 

  • Empty clear glass ornament 
  • Feathers 
  • Ribbon 
  • Alphabet stickers 
  • Scissors 
  • Pen or Tweezers (to move feathers around)
  • Baby's Hand and Foot Prints

#2. Watch your favorite Christmas movies.


Every year, I love to watch my favorite Christmas movies leading up to the day of Christmas. It's my personal "tradition" to keep my childhood alive. It also brings me comfort to remember that childhood movies can always make me feel better wherever I am. It would have been sweet to share my favorites with Elijah.

Some of my all-time favorite Christmas movies are: 
  • Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Cartoon and live-action versions)
  • The Santa Clause
  • Home Alone 2 
  • The Polar Express

#3. Drink hot cocoa (with marshmallows) at the beach.


If you're in an area where there's a beach (with or without snow), now is the perfect time to go to a very less crowded beach and spend some time writing your baby's name in the sand or snow. Or, just enjoy the peace and quiet - away from the hustle and bustle of life. FYI: The hot cocoa is for warmth.

#4. Buy a gift for your baby.


Yes, it is more than okay to get your baby a gift. If this is what makes grief a little less heavy, do it. Do it because you love your baby. Do it because your baby is still your baby.

5. Write a "Dear Santa" letter or a letter to your baby.

Write a letter for safe keeping or bury it. Place it inside an ornament. Writing by hand makes it more personal. Write your heart out, most of all, write to heal your heart.

And, despite what anyone says, you are never too old to write to Santa!

#6. Stay warm and read a book. 


I love being wrapped up in blankets with the heater on and diving into a great book. Reading is something I do to ease my mind, learn something new, connect to someone else's story, or travel to another world. 

Try reading a book that you can relate to. The more relate-able a story, the less you will feel alone.



#7. Bake fresh cookies.


Whether from scratch or pre-made, baking fresh cookies is a sweet reminder of simple happiness. Although, it would be much more fun to add cookie cutters and icing to write your baby's name, so that Santa remembers that you and baby deserves an extra present. 

#8. Random acts of kindness


A woman posted a photo of her random act of kindness and it inspired me. She and her husband gave a very generous tip of $50 at a restaurant and wrote on the check that it was in honor of their son who passed away. Just WOW!

Kindness is a way of healing the soul; giving love attracts love. It truly is an honorable quality in being humble and giving, especially during difficult times. 

Although, we don't have to break the bank to be kind. There are other and simpler ways to spread kindness.

  • Say please and thank you more often.
  • Do someone a favor without asking anything in return. 
  • Share something with a stranger.
  • Send an encouraging message.
  • Open doors for people. 
  • Compliment someone.
  • Offer help to the elderly. 
  • Give food or a blanket to the homeless. 

Whatever you do, do it from the heart. 

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