Thursday, December 4, 2014
The holidays are quickly approaching. It is hard to believe that in just 21 days, we will be celebrating Christmas. As the season continues to come closer, I find that it is becoming more difficult. I often wish we could just skip Christmas this year. If I could curl up in bed and not come out until after New Years, it would be absolutely great. However, throughout the past month, I have spent a lot of time discussing, reading, asking questions, and praying. I have received many suggestions and thoughts about the best ways to cope during the holidays, when you are experiencing a loss. Although there is absolutely nothing that can prepare me for the thoughts and feelings that are sure to surface, I have found so much comfort in the loving support of others. I am so thankful that God has placed so many beautiful people in my life, who have told me that they will be thinking and praying for Josh and I in the next few weeks. There are no words that can adequately express how much this truly means to both of us. We are praying continually for strength, comfort, peace, and joy, as we face the days ahead. It is going to be anything but easy to have this first Christmas without our precious Caroline, but we know that God has been faithful to us throughout the past year, and he will continue to provide for us throughout the holiday season as well.
I plan on writing a blog post very soon about the personal ways that Josh and I are coping with the holidays. In so many ways we feel like we are walking in the dark. I have no idea what to expect, how I am going to feel, and what I will and will not be able to handle. There is no amount of preparation that can make it easier. But for right now, I would like to share with you an article that I read tonight. It is a very sad article, but I also found it incredibly true and helpful. This article was written by a grieving mother, who also lost her precious baby. It expresses much of what I am thinking and feeling right now. Please take a moment to open up your heart to hear the words that she has so honestly and painfully written. My hope is that you can take what you have learned from this article to help other moms, who are grieving the loss of a baby or a child this Christmas.
5 Ways to Help Those Remembering Baby Loss In The Holiday Season
written by Tara Shafer (www.huffingtonpost.com)
The holidays are upon us and this presents challenges for families coping with baby loss. For the bereaved, the overt and unremitting emphasis on family and celebration may be both stifling and exhausting. Many holiday traditions represent light and birth, and for a family coping with pregnancy or infant loss, the ironies and companion absences can be too stark to bear easily. On the flip side, it is understandably difficult for caring friends and family to know how to best approach the painful and taboo subject of perinatal loss in the context of the joy-on-overdrive-holidays.
My second son was stillborn in December 2005. At that time, I had a 2-year- old son. I remember one evening I sat staring, devastated, into a crackling fire and ruminated about my baby's cremation. Next to me, my 2-year old squealed, delighted in the discovery of his face reflected back in a glass ornament as notes from Judy Garland's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" hung in the air. It was snowing. The distances I was required to travel between true joy and abject despair at each moment during that time were so vast, that if it is the case that I am still sane, I am left to wonder how that it so.
At Christmas dinner several days later, I stood near a fire pushing food around my plate as my extended family gathered to celebrate peace and joy. No one there attempted to talk to me about my loss. This was not, I know, for lack of love. In fact, it was because of love -- they did not want to remind me of my loss. They wanted so much for me to be happy, but negotiating this impossibility was complicated and awkward.
It is this sort of well-intended silence that feeds a self-imposed gag order around loss. This can make the baby-bereaved feel especially alone and adrift in a season of light that emphasizes children, miracles and family. In addition, many family gatherings have representatives from generations wherein discussion of death and baby loss is simply not permitted.
There are many responses to baby and child loss. Take care to remember that there is no "right" or one-size-fits-all response. However, reaching out to people is very often far more appreciated than is immediately apparent. Even if a couple prefers to be private in their remembrance, they will appreciate your consideration in asking. Once a dialogue is opened, you can trust yourself to follow the lead and wishes of the parents in question, and even allow responses to change as time goes on. For those who surround the bereaved, it may be difficult to know just how to acknowledge loss as experienced by loved one(s). Here are a few suggestions:
1. DO offer to create an annual family ritual. Light a candle in memory, and in support of the bereaved parents. If you already light candles in ritual, ask to include the baby and the bereaved parents.
2. DO be aware of dynamics in family/friend relationships. For example, if there is a baby at a holiday gathering, consider gently letting the bereaved know that you are thinking of her her/him. If your sister-in-law had a loss and you have a baby, consider ways to let her know that you wish that things were different and that you want to help her.
3. DO consider making a memorial donation in the name of the baby to a charity important to the family, or one that supports children in need. If the baby was named, DO use the name of the baby. The use of a name may be deeply validating to a family coping with loss.
4. DO ask about fathers' experience of loss. This loss is even less recognized than the experience of the mother. Let the father know that you recognize that the loss is his as well, and ask how you can support him.
5. DO engage in discussion about loss. Many bereaved parents derive strength and love from an acknowledgement of their pain. In many instances, the memory of loss may stay with parents for a lifetime. It is both ironic and understandable that it is precisely this validation of pain that draws the bereaved closer, cinching the fabric of complex and encompassing familial love as it lifts a veil of silence.