Death is painful to those left behind. Most of us grasp the cycle of life and can accept the death of an adult. Losing children to death is different.
It doesn’t seem right to lose a child from an accident, childhood cancer, pregnancy loss, or other unexpected conditions.
My own mother had given birth to a stillborn child in the month of December. Back then, birth announcements were read over the radio. My siblings and I surrounded it with our baby sitter, anticipating the news of a new baby brother or sister. We were confused when our parents’ names were not mentioned on the baby announcements that morning.
Days later, I remember standing at the cemetary, and a tiny, little box being lowered into the ground. Decades later, when cleaning out my parents’ estate, I found the signs of my mother’s grief. In a tin garbage can in the attic, filled with baby clothing, at the very bottom was a single dried rose.
I knew what that rose was for, it was for my deceased baby brother. Adult me then realized the years of pain my mother must have felt from losing a child at birth.
It is beneficial to the family to take the action that the deceased is still alive in your heart during the holiday season.
I encourage you to visit the other article in this series on grieving:
- Christmas Grief
- Ideas for Decorating Graves
- Grave Blankets, a Curious Holiday Tradition
- Christmas Memorial Trees and Tables
- Alone at Christmas
Ideas to get through the first Christmas of loss of baby or child
Choosing how to remember an infant or child at Christmas can be particularly painful. Feelings of anger, overwhelming sadness, and unfairness at a life cut short can consume the holidays.
The parents will have to decide if setting up a memorial corner or memorial Christmas tree feels right. It can be as simple as a loss of baby Christmas tree ornament. Just as the parents grieve, siblings grieve, too, and should be included.
Here are some activities for remembering the loss of a baby or child during the holidays:
- Create a memorial: Consider setting up a special memorial in honor of the baby or child. This could involve lighting a candle, displaying photos, or creating a special ornament in their memory.
- Decorate the gravesite; put some thought into it including seasonal and festive decorations
- Write letters, make cards, or color pages to the baby or child in Heaven
- Start a new tradition: Consider starting a new tradition in memory of the child. This could involve a holiday activity they loved, such as visiting holiday light displays or making Christmas cookies.
- Express your feelings: Find a way to express your emotions, whether it’s through writing, art, or music. Creating something in honor of your child can be a therapeutic way to process your grief.
- Re-connect with your support system. Isolating yourself can lead to deeper depression. Friends and family meant it when they said they are here for you. Re-read funeral sympathy cards, even the flower card messages, to find love and support waiting for you.
For other ideas, please see my article on Christmas grief.
Coping with loss of child: actions of kindness
Rather than ornaments, actions of kindness can keep the mind busy and bring feelings of happiness:
- Volunteer at events that help others
- Donate to families in need
- Make care packages for others
- Make or build something with the hands, such as crocheting a hat or making a bird house
One mother’s story of healing after loss of infant child
When my husband’s cousin lost a child at birth, she chose her own healing path. She sent flowers at Christmas to those who lost a loved one in that past year. As someone who experienced grief during the holidays, she wanted to help others get through it.
I know, because I had lost my father that year, when the unexpected flower delivery came.
It is often said that after the funeral is over, the surviving family is left to face the reality of the loss. Continuing to check in on the family, especially when you are thinking about your own Christmas, will be helpful.
Recently, I received another Christmas centerpiece delivery from a neighbor whose son took his life. I had spent time talking with her. My time had meant so much, that she felt compelled to send a thank you gift for my support in her time of need.
Seeking mental help to process loss of child
Support can be as simple as reaching out to loved ones to talk about your feelings of loss and sadness. Support groups consist of others who understand your experience and can provide comfort and understanding.
These ideas in no way minimize the pain. Christmas grief needs to be acknowledged and processed. Feeling the loss of a son or daughter can be safely expressed in a support group of other parents. The good thing is that these groups are readily accessible.
Seeking out a therapist or counseling services to discuss feelings of loss should always be encouraged. It can be a challenge. Affording the cost of therapy, embracing the stigma of mental help, and getting through scheduling hurdles can be frustrating.
Helping the parents and siblings connect with mental grief support is the real gift friends or family can give.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours, seven days a week.
988 Lifeline Chat and Text is a service that has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
By calling 988 you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself: Be gentle with yourself and prioritize self-care during this time. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up and seek out activities that bring you comfort and peace.