The holidays can be hard days to face when you’re grieving the loss of a baby. These holidays are focused on spending time with family and making memories together.
But when your baby is in Heaven, you are left to celebrate these traditions without them. When all you ever wanted was for them to be here with you, this season magnifies your grief and how much you miss them. You had so many hopes and dreams for their life–including enjoying the holidays together.
So how do you survive this bittersweet season without them? How do you find joy amid your sorrow? Here are five ways I’ve learned to navigate the holidays after the loss of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks.
1. Give yourself grace
First and foremost, give yourself permission to grieve. Your baby’s life is worthy of being grieved. Allow yourself time and space to mourn. Understand that it is normal to grieve during this season. Do not feel guilty for feeling sad. Do not put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Give yourself grace. This is a season–one that won’t last forever–and it’s okay to let this year look different than past years.
2. Put up healthy boundaries
It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to keep things simple this year. You don’t have to participate in every family gathering or Christmas party this season. If you need to leave early from an event, you can do that. If you don’t feel up to hosting a gathering, ask someone else to lead it for you this year.
Decorate your house however much you feel you have the emotional capacity for–it’s okay if you don’t do everything you always do. In future years, you will feel joy again and can do what you’ve always done. But for now, it’s okay to put up healthy boundaries to protect your grieving heart.
3. Communicate with friends and family members
Our friends and family members don’t always know what we need or how to care for us during our season of grief. And sometimes some people do not know how to respond at all. They may not know what to say or may avoid talking about your baby altogether.
This is why communication before family gatherings is so important. If you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with your family, consider sending a text or talking with them in person. Explain that this season is hard for you. You may need to tell them that you don’t feel you can attend something or that you may have to leave early.
This is also a good time to set expectations on how you want your baby’s memory to be honored during family holidays. Maybe you want a stocking or ornament displayed for your baby on your family’s Christmas tree. Maybe you want them mentioned in a prayer or a family tradition. To avoid your feelings being hurt, it is best to communicate these expectations in advance.
4. Honor your baby in Heaven with memorial traditions
There are many ways you can include your baby in Heaven into holiday traditions. I will share a few ideas that my family has done to honor Bridget:
- burn a memorial candle on the Thanksgiving table
- put a stocking for your baby on your mantle
- make or buy a special memorial ornament to hang on your tree
- include your baby’s name on your Christmas card or have your family picture taken with you holding a memorial item (like a bear or photo)
- decorate your baby’s grave (or a special place in your home or yard)
- donate toys or clothes to a Children’s Home or Angel Tree in memory of your baby (some families like to choose toys for a child that is the same age that their child would have been)
- make a donation to your favorite ministry or nonprofit in memory of your baby in Heaven
5. Remember the “thrill of hope” of this season
Though this season may be marked by sadness, it’s important to remember the true meaning of the season. Our Savior entered the world as a baby, born of the Virgin Mary in a manger. He came down as a human to save us. He is our hope. He is the one who defeated death, and He promises us eternity in Heaven with Him and our babies.
There is a line in the Christmas song O Holy Night that says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” As grieving moms, we can relate to this juxtaposition. Our weary hearts are grieving, but we can rejoice because Jesus has given us reason to grieve with hope. One day He will return and wipe away every tear from our eyes.
In Romans 15:13, Paul declares, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Sweet momma, may the God of Hope–Jesus, Emmanuel–fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him this Christmas season.