Monday, December 2, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day Two

Our son, Gabriel was stillborn last July, just a couple of months after being diagnosed with a fatal complication. His due date was in early October and for the majority of my pregnancy I looked forward to dressing him up for Halloween, showing him off to all my extended family on Thanksgiving and spoiling him with toys on Christmas. Unfortunately, I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Gabriel knowing that all those events would never take place. There would be no Halloween costume, no Thanksgiving celebration, no Baby's 1st Christmas.

Even though every day in the life of a babyloss parent is hard, I think that most would agree that the holidays are an especially difficult time. For me, the holidays are hard because they trigger memories of naively planning out the first few months of Gabriel's life... time I never got with him. The holidays also remind me of how much Gabriel's death affects other people, not just my husband and I. I feel bad for the rest of my family and my husband's family because I know they are missing Gabriel too. The holidays are bittersweet for them too. It is almost like there is nothing worth celebrating if Gabriel can't be here to join the festivities. I keep thinking that if only he was here, then this could be the happiest time of the year for all of us.  

Last year was our first Christmas after losing Gabriel. I did my best to stay busy and focused on what I could do to include him. My husband and I bought a small Christmas tree and decorated it with homemade and store bought ornaments that reminded us of him. We also ordered a special handmade knitted stocking and had his name embroidered on it. We decorated his table (where we keep his pictures and ashes) with Christmas lights and candles. We asked friends and family to perform random acts of kindness in his honor and email them to us. On Christmas Eve, we printed them all out and after opening presents on Christmas, we read each one aloud. Lastly, we made donations to several different charities in Gabriel's honor. We had received so much support from so many amazing organizations and wanted to give back to them so they could continue to help other babyloss parents. We also thought that it would be nice if Gabriel was included in the giving part of the Christmas season since he couldn't be here for the receiving part.

This Christmas will be our 2nd one without Gabriel. It's been over 16 months since he died and a lot has changed during that time. I've noticed that as I return more and more to my normal life that I end up doing less and less for Gabriel. It is becoming more difficult to juggle my day-to-day life with parenting a child in heaven. I feel guilty because I don't have as much time or as great of a need to do things for Gabriel as I did last year. Because of this, I'm actually looking forward to the holidays this year because it's a time when I get a break from my everyday responsibilities and I'll have time to do a lot more for Gabriel than I normally can.

One thing I'm really looking forward to is putting together a Christmas card that includes Gabriel, so that family and friends will remember him with us this Christmas. I want to show others that Gabriel is still very much part of our family and I think a Christmas card is the perfect way to do so. If you're thinking about including your child in your holiday card, there are many ways you can do so. You can simply sign their name or draw in a symbol that represents them. Or you could make a collage of photos with your living children and one of Carly Marie's Christmas Beach Wonderland photos or a Personalized Holiday Candle photo from my site, The Sacred Seashore.

Christmas is also a great time to bond with your child by working on a special craft project. I find crafts to be really healing because they make me feel like I am mothering Gabriel. Last Christmas, I made a couple of ornaments with Gabriel's name on them and decided to start an ornament-making holiday tradition.

If you like making things in honor of your child, consider making a Christmas ornament to add to your tree. You could even make a few and give some away to your family members. There are so many Christmas ornament ideas out there for all different skill levels. Many craft stores sell ornament making kits or "blank" ornaments that you can decorate with paint and glitter. For inspiration, I've started a DIY Christmas Ornament Pinterest Board.

Another tradition I started last year was giving to others in memory of Gabriel. Giving to charity in memory of your child is a great way to include them in the holidays. What my husband and I do is set aside the money that we would have used to buy Gabriel's Christmas presents, and donate that money to several different organizations. Keep in mind that giving to others in honor of your child doesn't mean that you have to spend a lot of money. There are so many ways to show generosity during the holidays. Check with your local church or food bank to see if they're collecting canned food items for needy families. Donate a toy to Toys for Tots. Put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Or donate whatever you can afford to a worthy charity that has helped you. If you can't afford to give items or money, consider volunteering or performing random acts of kindness throughout the holiday season in memory of your child. Showing generosity and kindness towards others is an amazing way to keep both your child and the spirit of Christmas alive.

There is of course no magic trick to getting through the holidays after you've lost a child. There is certainly no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. It's going to be difficult and bittersweet and surviving it is simply a matter of doing what you can to get through it. But it can also be a time of healing and bonding with your child. Finding ways to include your child in your Christmas celebrations and traditions can not only make the holidays a little bit easier, but can even make Christmas a special time of the year when your child is lovingly remembered by others and honored in beautiful, meaningful ways. 

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You can read Catherine's blog HERE, order yourself some beautiful photos HERE and follow her Facebook page HERE


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