Is happiness at Christmas possible after losing a child to death, miscarriage or stillbirth?

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is talking about family and celebrating BUT you feel like you just want to hide away from the world because it’s not like that for you.

You have lost your child and so every Christmas you just feel empty and alone ….

Do you:

  • Get upset every time you receive a Christmas card and it doesn’t have your Angel child’s name on it?
  • Get jealous of other families taking their children to see father Christmas?
  • Get upset at all the Facebook posts about school plays, visits to Santa etc…?

People think of Christmas as being a magical loving time, but after a major loss it can become anything but that. Sobering thoughts as we enter the holiday season...It is important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes we are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now.

Holidays and special days help us mark the passing of time and jog our memories of events and people. This is especially true for parents who have lost a child, whether that child was a baby, young child, youth or adult. Connection is vital at this time and sharing stories can help you to heal, remembering joyous times you had on a holiday, or one of life’s special days (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc.). What would the world be like without holiday times? Each year, families and friends look forward to sharing these special times together, but this might not be the case for you now.

If I were to ask you what you needed this holiday season, what would you say?

Probably, just like me, you were brought up to believe that holidays are fun and joyful. But now that you are grieving, it can make the holidays a painful and exhausting experience. Take the time to find healing activities and appreciate your life. Look at what your loss experience has taught you about the strength you have found in yourself. You know what it’s like when the season is approaching and everyone around you seems to be busy doing something to create a happy holiday. You can also keep busy this season by focusing on those things that help you manage. Create activities which can bring a sense of personal renewal and a feeling of significant accomplishment. Be flexible in your thinking, as you do practical and sensible things that help you deal with things.

Here are a few ideas to help you deal with the Holiday Season

  1. Keep a journal for venting.  This can become an outlet to share what you are going through. Then reflect on what you wrote, how you have changed and how you are managing so much better. You can create a biography of your child in the journal that helps you search for answers to your questions.
  2. Use poetry to memorialise your child. Poems have great meaning to those who write them and those who read them.
  3. Write a letter to yourself. This can be about your child, what you now know about what happened to them, what got you through it, and how you found meaning in it.
  4. Create a memory book. This can contain photos or be a box with mementoes and reminders of the connection you shared with your child.
  5. Wear something your loved one gave you. You can just wear this for you or let others know of its significance.
  6. Purchase a fragrant candle and create a ritual as you light it. You can use this to reflect on your child’s life. Rituals have a beginning and an end. That is why lighting and extinguishing a candle is symbolic.
  7. Keep an item that belonged to your child. These objects are physical items that connect you to your child and can help you with acceptance. These transitional items hold special meaning and serve as reminders that you are still spiritually connected with your child.
  8. Create a memorial fund. This can be done in your child’s name. Contact your local bank or a foundation to help you and then let others know how to donate to the fund.
  9. Focus on others in need and volunteer. This can also be done in your child’s memory at a nursing home, homeless shelter or charity they supported, or which helped them.
  10. Read a card or letter given to you by your child. I still have a couple of items Adam made at his playgroup on display in my living room.
  11. Watch a home video of your child. When watching this you can remember the happy times you shared with your child and fire the neurons which will create more happy memories.
  12. Express your feelings through music. Whether you choose to sing a song or write one, the creative expression can be healing. Sit back and listen to a song that is meaningful to you and brings you strength.
  13. Buy a gift for yourself. This gift can be one your child would have liked or what they may have bought you.
  14. Create a memory quilt which can be used to cover a bed or chair. Include family and friends in this activity. A quilt can be made of digital photos transferred to fabric squares and you could use some of your child’s clothing.
  15. Take care of yourself. Focus on eating right, exercising, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy body weight, and getting adequate sleep.
  16. Review what you have done. Think about what you can simplify. As you focus on traditions, be mindful of those things you can handle and those things you want to change. Let others know the changes you intend to make.
  17. Give yourself permission to leave early from a gathering. If you went to a family gathering and felt ill after you have arrived it would be perfectly acceptable to leave, so if you don’t feel ‘right’ at a gathering it’s perfectly fine to say so and leave if you feel you need to.
  18. Shop online. If you don't feel like going out shopping, especially during the Christmas period when there may be many painful reminders around, consider catalogue and Internet shopping.
  19. Don’t send out Christmas cards. If you don't feel like it, or if it is a task that just feels too difficult, we have the wonders like Facebook now, where you could wish all friends and family a happy Christmas.
  20. Let others know that it’s okay to reminisce.

My first Christmas was hard, I just wanted to hide away, but I was very lucky, I had a close group of friends from school, I spent Boxing Day with Alison and her family the first Christmas after I lost Adam. I was invited for Christmas Day as well, but tempting as it was to go for both days, I couldn’t leave my Mum and Dad alone on Christmas Day as they were equally suffering. To go out and spend time with friends was an escape route and distraction for me that first year, but following that I believe it’s about creating new rituals to remember your child and include them in your celebrations rather than not celebrate just because they aren’t with you. When Adam was at playschool he made a hat similar to an Indian headdress but with a Holly leaf instead of a feather, this always took pride of place on my Christmas tree every year after, so Adam was always there as part of my Christmas celebrations.

Let others know that it’s okay to reminisce If you want to talk about your child, let people know, they may be keeping quiet for fear of upsetting you, it could simply be a lack of communication. Sharing stories often lead to stories that will make you laugh, which can actually help you manage your feelings on those special days. These special days should be joyful and fun times so use some of the ideas above to remember these special times with love and happiness. Review the traditions you follow to see if they are right for you now and make new ones to do on those special days. Creating these new traditions and rituals can transform the way you feel about those days.

How to feel connected with your child on special days

Your child will be in your heart forever, just because they are physically not with you doesn’t mean their soul isn’t still with you. When you wake up on those days, spend a few minutes either meditating about how you feel and sending messages to your child through meditation. You can also spend this time journaling to your child, what you loved that they used to do for you or whatever you want to convey to still feel connected to them.

You can reminisce about your child with those who are compassionate, and are happy to just be there and listen to the stories you wish to share.

As with everything else in life, there is a yin and yang balance, not talking about your child and bottling up your thoughts and feelings is one side and constantly talking about your child is the other; neither of these are ideal. Create a balance that suits you, releasing any resistant thoughts and feelings and then you will be able to share openly from the heart about your child, but still have perspective and harmony in your life.

One of the things I want to see change, is people become more open about loss and that it is not seen as a taboo subject, that few want to discuss.

Dealing with ‘Special days’

These days can highlight the special connection between a parent and child (no matter how old the child was). Parenthood is a bond like no other. On these special days, it can highlight who is not there with you.

Return to the 4 C`s to deal with everything that can come up on these days. Firstly, think about how you can CARE for yourself on this special day or get your partner or children to take care of you depending on your circumstances. If you will be on your own, prepare the day before, make sure you will have something nice and nourishing in the house to eat. Do whatever you can to help you relax or have fun.

COMMUNICATE with your partner, any other children you have and/or close family and friends about what you would like to do on that day; they might want to take you out to show you how much they love you. However, going out to eat in a packed restaurant with everyone else celebrating the special day, when you just feel like crying because you miss your child, could be the worst thing for you, so you need to communicate how you feel and what would make you happy on that special day, or at least make it endurable.

Think about how you can CONNECT with the child you have lost; would you like to visit their gravesite with some flowers or go to a favourite place of theirs and just spend some quiet time there. Again, communicate this to your partner and any other children you have. Maybe you can be taken there first to spend some special time connecting and then be taken to have a family meal with the other children you have (if you have them), where you could share favourite memories and family stories around the dinner table and CREATE a special day with all your children, or, if it is just you and your partner now, go home for a special meal and share your precious memories together, your hopes and desires for the future.

Dealing with thoughts and emotions on those special days

It is very likely that Christmas time will trigger thoughts and emotions. Be aware of this and have your way of dealing with anything that comes up, imagine the thought in writing and then imagine a big fat rubber erasing this thought for you. If you have worked with me, you will have the technique I share with clients to release any unwanted thoughts that arise. The method in short is just releasing the thought you don’t want and turning it into a more positive one, and then we replace your unwanted thought with one you do want. This will raise your vibrations and change how you feel to something lovely.

I know it's hard especially this time of year, but please try to smile instead of cry, your Angel would want you to be happy, they know you still love them and would do anything to have them here, but they are with you in your heart, just open your heart to loving yourself too & those you still have with you physically.

No matter how short the life of your child - CELEBRATE IT in a happy, joyful and loving way.

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Daniel Ashley - 7 months ago Reply

I have not been able to celebrate Christmas since 1974.

My only prayer tis that God would honor my prayer to hold my baby girl for only one hour. I would happily give my life for that.

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