When our child has died the thought of celebrations and family times can be very daunting, as we feel robbed of the ability to find enjoyment in such occasions.
The gap that is left in our family seems huge. We have no idea what to expect or how to face the first Christmas, and even in subsequent years we can still feel ill-equipped to deal with it. And for those who expected to celebrate Christmas Day with a newborn baby son or daughter, the emptiness is a stark and painful difference to the excitement, noise and fun that we hoped the day would hold.
When we asked some bereaved parents for their ideas about how best to cope with Christmas they came up with this helpful list of things to avoid, include and change:
Harry and Angela found buying presents a minefield: “We sponsored a cow the first year, wondering what Mark would have liked and laughing because he always asked for something expensive!”
Joy found herself on her own one year as other family members were working, so she tried to just treat it as any other day and watched some TV and skyped her sister.
Sandra lost two babies and on their birthdays tries to give them individual time but at Christmas finds it hard as she misses them both at the same time. She finds it helpful to keep busy and has two glass tree decorations with the girls’ names engraved on them to acknowledge them as a part of the family.
Harry is now able to smile at some past Christmas memories: “I remember going to our local railway station with Mark to put back a station sign he had placed in our garden after a particularly ‘good’ night out he had partaken in with his friends!”
Neil and Sally chose an ‘alternative’ Christmas, helping at a Crisis Centre on Christmas Day and Boxing Day: “It was certainly the best thing we could have done, making us feel useful but also helping us. We were exhausted, but it was worth it, and we still got to see both sides of our family in the evenings.”
So Christmas will come – and it will go again. We may make some mistakes and will know what to avoid another year. However, hopefully we will find space for memories and to be thankful for our precious children, no matter how brief their time with us. And we will value those who we do spend time with, knowing that life and relationships are really precious gifts.