Sunday, 25 November 2012

Gifts of Christmas

This year, I have lost my enthusiasm for the festive period. Usually, you can't hold me back.

I love Christmas cooking, writing out cards and messages to friends who aren't seen as often as they should be, wrapping presents, Christmas church services, getting out the decorations, buying gifts, Christmas parties...

I've lost the love. I need to find some enthusiasm for the sake of William. He is really starting to understand the concept of Christmas so everything Christmas related is terribly exciting. I obviously love seeing him fascinated with Christmas decorations, or Christmas songs, stories of Santa Claus and he is the reason that I am able to get through it all.

I discussed my feelings about this festive season with my counsellor at the hospital. She asked me "what does Christmas mean to you?" - well for me, it is all about family. Spending time together. Making memories, keeping traditions. Maybe that is why I am finding it especially hard. The new part of our family that we were all looking forward to, is missing from our Christmas time. I feel angry about this. My son should be unwrapping his first presents, being utterly spoiled by family and friends, maybe even having a taste of his first Christmas dinner. Instead, we will be visiting his grave side and bringing small gifts to him there.

She said what about the baby Jesus? Do I find that reminder hard? For once, I don't find the baby association hard. I may do closer to Christmas when I go to church for the carol service and nativity plays. I remember in years gone by, finding the words of the readings about Mary giving birth and her pregnancy especially poignant after I had William. I felt the magic of motherhood in the Christmas story. Now I can't feel any magic. Just emptiness. My body betrayed me. My stupid body grew my placenta abnormally, and caused this horrific event. I like to attend church at Christmas to thank God for all I have in my life. But I don't know if I will this year. The church we held Harry's funeral. Thanking God? I don't feel like thanking God at the moment.  It all seems so wrong. Why did this happen to my family? Why is my little boy's body up in the cemetry and his spirit with the angels? Why is it my boy? What have I done to deserve this? All questions I struggle to get my head around. I believe everything happens for a reason, and can't fathom the reason behind all this grief. Not just mine, either. 

I decorated the Christmas tree yesterday, to try to encourage some festive cheer in myself. I always love it, and I did love it but with each decoration I faught back the tears. We have a huge part of our Christmas missing, and I almost feel wrong wanting to celebrate this time of year, when I should be missing Harry. Christmas focuses so much on the children and it is a reminder again that there is a child missing out on a wonderful day. I found William's special tree decoration; a blue one with "baby's first christmas" written on it. I found it so hard to place that one on the tree, as I couldn't help thinking that this should be for Harry this year. This is so much harder than I imagined it would be. I have seen a lovely silver Christmas tree decoration that you can use hand prints from your little one on, with their name on that I would like. Probably for next year as, being silver, they aren't cheap. I don't want Harry to be forgotten during Christmas, and he obviously won't be, but I think I would to include Harry in our Christmas traditions going forward. 

I haven't bought any presents yet and therefore haven't wrapped any. Mainly due to budget constraints, but also due to the fact that if I start Christmas shopping, then I will be accepting Christmas, and I feel odd about that. I have bought some cards but haven't found the motivation to write them. Usually my cards would have a little run down of my year, maybe some photographs. I don't really feel much like doing that this year. Everyone on my Christmas list knows about Harry, but I feel like this year has been so strange and bizarre, that I don't fancy writing about it, in a cheery way. 

I read a lovely blog called "Hello Grief" which has lots of really helpful ideas to those grieving. I read one idea about Christmas which helped me:

Find ways to acknowledge and remember the person who died. There are many ways to honor a person’s memory during the holidays, either by carrying on traditions or creating new ones. Here are some ideas to consider. What feels comforting is just as unique as grief, so choose the ones that feel right to you and your children.
  • Light a memorial candle. Consider their favorite color or scent when choosing a candle or decorate a votive. Invite children and other friends/family to share memories.
  • Write a card or letter to the person who died. You can also write a card to yourself from the person who died using the words or distinct phrases that are missed and loved.
  • On strips of paper write memories that family members have of the person who died or special gifts that person left with you. Loop the paper strips to create a chain.  Those who wish can read their memories out loud as they add them to the chain.
  • Wrap small empty boxes in holiday wrap. On each gift tag write a gift that person has left you with, i.e. courage, special stuffed animal, piece of jewelry, strength, a skill, etc.  Make a special pile, and add to it as you recall more “gifts” this person has left to each of you.
  • Hang a special decoration in memory of the person, such as a wreath or stocking. If a stocking is used, family members can place memories inside the stocking.
  • Buy a gift that the person would have liked to receive and donate it to a charity or social organization.
  • Wrap a big box in holiday wrap and make an opening in the top large enough to push paper notes through. Family members and friends can write memories and messages and place them in the box throughout the season. At a special time the box can be unwrapped and the memories/gifts shared with each other.
  • Keep a place setting at the table during a special holiday meal. Encourage each family member to decorate the place setting with something special, such as a flower, poem, card or memento.
  • Create a memorabilia table or corner where you can place photos, stuffed animals, toys, cards, foods, and any other kinds of mementos that remind you of your loved one.
  • Share a meal of the person’s favorite foods. If possible, involve your children in the preparation.  Food can be a great spark for talking about memories and stories.
In all of this, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to handle a holiday, only what feels right for your unique family.  Some people want to keep traditions while others prefer to do something completely out of the ordinary. Perhaps your family will choose something in between, a mixture of old and new.
I love all these ideas, and think that a lot of these will be really good ways of remembering Harry during our Christmas period.

I know that Christmas can be really hard at the best of times, but this year (along with thinking of Harry) my thoughts will be with all those families with an empty seat at the table, through death or separation. It is so hard but I hope that it will bring everyone closer, in everyone's journey through this painful time.


  1. Niki, if you feel there is anyway you can stretch to buying that special decoration, I really think you should, maybe William can help hang it up? I can't imagine how are this must be for you. I hope William helps you through this time and you find the strength to enjoy it with him. Leila

  2. Sweetheart, you MUST continue to live fully for WILLIAM. My first son was stillborn...I went home to an empty nursery...ten months later my daughter was born and lived for only four days...AGAIN I went home to another empty nursery....I HAD NOTHING.... you have William...get yourself together for him...celebrate every single day with can mourn but do not overlook and take for granted the GREAT gift you have in William..


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