Last Christmas: Navigating holidays after infant loss

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It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the last quarter of this year. Before you know it, we’ll be packing up Halloween decor and creating menus and place settings for Thanksgiving. After that, we’ll flip our calendars to December and the pre-Christmas frenzy begins. For those of us who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss, facing holidays after loss can feel like reaching the crest of a rollercoaster. We hover for a few seconds at the peak before plummeting down the rickety rails with speed and force that makes our bodies lift out of our seats.

After losing  Xavier last September, the holiday season felt like I was locked into a roller coaster and could not see any exit ramp in sight. Everything–and I mean everything–felt like a personalized reminder of our loss: Christmas greeting cards from friends with their newborn babies dressed in snuggly winter-themed onesies, sappy department store commercials with children asking Santa for that special gift, and even some of my favorite Christmas songs left me sobbing in my car (Nat King Cole’s rendition of “A Cradle in Bethlehem” still wrecks me!)

Everywhere I turned, there was something to underscore the fact my son was no longer with me. In spite of the emphasis on my loss, I made every effort to honor and incorporate Xavier into our celebrations. So, in preparation for the season around the corner, here are a few things that were most helpful for me last year.

Creating New Traditions

In my family of origin, we celebrate BIG; it’s one of my favorite things about my people. But without Xavier to share these moments with, how could I be joyful? I found ways to insert Xavier into so many aspects of Christmas, and I was surrounded by his spirit throughout my home. I purchased and was gifted numerous ornaments in his memory and covered our tree with them. (Check out a few of my favorites from laurelbox; their Holiday line is available now!)

I created playlists of the Christmas hymns and carols I love to sing and that I plan on teaching our children. On a whim I bought a wooden nativity set that reminded me of Xavi. We left it out for friends’ children to play with when they came over. I made an Advent calendar with daily readings for the month of December. Each Sunday we hosted Advent dinners and candle lightings in our home, focusing our hearts on the promise of Christ’s return and the hope we have in his Light conquering the darkness. We shared food and drink with our friends and their littles.

And guess what? We made it through. In his graciousness, the Lord saw us through. I encourage you to find ways to honor and remember your baby/babies this season.

Logging Off

One of the best things I did for my sanity was to delete social media apps off of my phone. I also made an intentional decision to not log on until after the new year. I deleted Facebook and Instagram around mid-November, but I would advise doing it even earlier–pre-Halloween if you can. For many this is the first of a long string of holiday triggers. It is a child-centered day where parents will surely be taking photos and posting them with clever captions. Do yourself a favor and abstain from spending too much time on these sites.

On top of the grief of missing my son, I struggled with anger, jealousy and resentment of my friends more the more I was on social media. Similar to the concept of “hate reading,” I would scroll mindlessly, internally judging all of their posts and pictures, roll my eyes at their seemingly perfect lives, and then wish it were me dressing up a toddler in whatever silly costume they chose.

Limiting my social media intake made me less covetous of others, and it forced me to be more intentional at fostering relationships. Since I wasn’t paying attention to online updates, I had to actually talk to my friends to catch up on their life. I wasn’t holed up on my living room couch alone clicking through their photos–they were sitting across from me in a cozy coffee shop as we connected in real time.

Try starting with one day a week when you don’t check social media sites; maybe even give yourself a curfew (i.e. no social media one hour before bedtime). Have someone to hold you accountable.

Holding Onto Hope

I wish that I could guarantee you and your heart an easy road; that’s not a promise I can make. You will miss your baby, and all kinds of things will bring them to your mind. But I can offer something else: hope. Above all else it is my deepest desire that you find hope in Christ.  Ask Him the hard questions. Cry, scream, cuss, and do whatever you have to. He’s not going anywhere.

To all those preparing to face the holidays after loss: take it one moment at a time. Identify what breaks your spirit and root those things out if you can. Find what heals you and do more of it. And hold onto the hope that this life is not our end, and we will see our children once again.

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