Guest Post by Annie Willems
It’s Christmas. A holiday filled with excitement, anticipation and joy. We have parties, eat extra desserts, purchase gifts… We celebrate!
And in the midst of a month of celebration, we know people who had to say goodbye this year. We know couples who have miscarried or experienced a stillbirth- whether this year or 5 years ago. It may not be mentioned often, but we know who they are.
In the majority of us, there is a strong human desire to not bring pain to another person. “They look happy today. I shouldn’t mention their loss because that will make them sad.” If we just focus on the current happy, maybe we can keep them happy, too.
But that’s not the truth.
The truth is that the pain of loss doesn’t magically go away on during the holidays. The grief often intensifies. On a holiday that is so focused on children, the ones who are missing are incredibly missed. It can become the proverbial elephant in the room; the breath that is held for fear of saying or doing something wrong.
If we’re being completely honest, the family is often waiting to see who will remember their child in the midst of the celebration. Knowing that someone else remembers their child is more precious than any gift that can be purchased in a store.
Some suggestions for remembering a child that left too soon:
- Purchase an ornament for the child and hang it on your tree or give it to the family for their tree. A personalized ornament with the child’s name will have special significance.
- Write the child’s name on the outside of a candle holder and light the candle during your celebration. This allows the child to be incorporated into the event in a very simple (but meaningful) way.
- Make a donation in the child’s name and give the family a certificate or letter acknowledging the donation.
- If you have stockings or other decorations that represent other children in the family, add one for this child, as well.
- Send a simple text letting the family know that their child is on your mind.
Each of these ideas acknowledges that the child is a part of the family. Most also include the child’s name. This is something that families crave to hear and see.
When you honor a loss during the holiday season, you aren’t going to make the family sad. You aren’t reminding them of their loss, either… because they think about their child all the time. Taking a moment to incorporate their child into the Christmas celebration is one of the most loving and uplifting things you can do.
Annie Willems, co-owner of Pacific Northwest Doulas, is a Labour and Postpartum Doula in Salem, OR. She’s been offering families her empathy and support since she was 16 and is a strong voice for elevating the doula profession.