The first Christmas with out Xavier was a challenge. I spent a great deal of time making things for him, thinking about him and desperately, desperately missing him. I put on a brave face and tried to make Christmas as magical as I could for my living son, but a large part of me spent Christmas in a different place. The second Christmas was different, and whilst the ache was still there, it was no longer raw and weeping. I had Xavier’s little brother in my arms and a new sense of hope and purpose.
This year, with baby Elijah old enough to join in a little more, I am really looking forward to Christmas. Life has taken off again for us. I still think of Xavier all the time, but no longer with a deep sense of yearning. He is simply a part of our lives in the form we know him best now: a soul, a guiding light, the sunshine’s rays, the one we thank when little things go our way, the butterflies that fly too close to be anyone else.
I wanted to put together a list of Christmas ideas both for bereaved families, and those that support them. I hope that they may offer some comfort.
Christmas ideas for the bereaved:
- Every year I either make or create (or both) a christmas ornament for Xavier. It is a beautiful way to keep him close and to remember him at Christmas time.
- I hang a stocking for Xavier each year.
- When the boys write their lists to Santa, I write a letter to Xavier and place it in his stocking.
- I have baubles with each of my boys names on them. It is one of the only places I can see them all together and it makes me smile.
- Whether it’s your first or fifteenth Christmas, be gentle with yourself. I think as bereaved parents we expect so much from ourselves. Just be gentle with your expectations – it is a difficult time of year.
- Every year I attend a service dedicated to child loss – it is a beautiful Christmas tradition.
- Each year I have bought a gift for a child the same age as Xavier and placed it underneath the Kmart wishing tree.
- I haven’t as of yet, but one year I intend to make a special memory box in Xavier’s name to give to another bereaved family who are just starting their journey.
- The simple act of going into a church, lighting a candle and saying a prayer allows me to centre myself and find some peace in a season that can be anything but.
- You might find yourself smiling at a department store santa or humming along to a carol. Equally, those things could leave you in devastated tears. Either reaction is okay. Allow yourself happiness and allow yourself sadness. Be kind to yourself.
Christmas ideas for the friends and family supporting the bereaved:
- Both sides of our family remember Xavier at Christmas time. There are baubles for him on my parent’s tree and my sister in law’s tree. It means so much to see him remembered and treasured.
- If you want to, buy a little present for or in the name of the child no longer here. A donation to their favourite charity would be a lovely gesture.
- Be sensitive and be forgiving – it is a really hard time of year.
- Particularly, if it’s their first Christmas, give them space. It may feel like they aren’t really engaging in Christmas. They may not want to participate in family traditions. They may not want to celebrate Christmas at all. Allow them the time and space they need and try not feel hurt.
- Attend a service with them
- Visit their child’s grave or special place and leave something – not out of obligation to your family member or friend but because you miss their baby too.
- Address Christmas cards to the whole family, including the ones gone too soon.