The following post on Baby Loss at Christmas has been written by Jenny Whatling who runs the Norfolk & Norwich Baby Bereavement Group. In the year since her son Jude was stillborn, Jenny has set up this support group for grieving parents and raised money which has been used to fund a separate hospital bereavement suite for families experience baby loss.
Supporting Bereaved Family and Friends over the festive period
Our baby boy Jude was stillborn in May 2018. I think about him everyday and he leaves a gap in our family which will never be filled.
I sometimes get lost in daydreams imagining what life would be like if he was the age he would have been now. Seeing little ones who would have been his peers is hard to face, times where he should be joining in with their games and grieving the life he should be living. When polite conversation asks how many children I have, I have to make the choice to include him and explain or not include him and feel like I’ve betrayed his memory. Facing life without one of my children is a daily challenge practically and emotionally.
Often people tell me they can’t imagine what it’s like. I know the truth is really they could imagine if they tried but it is just too devastating and painful to consider.
The Most Magical Time of The Year?
Christmas can be a difficult time for lots of people and when your baby has died it can feel as though the gap they’ve left behind is bigger than ever. Afterall, Christmas is a time for spending time with friends and family so when a precious part of your family is missing instead of being surrounded with Christmas cheer we are faced with Christmas dread.
I speak to lots of bereaved families through The Norfolk and Norwich Baby Bereavement Group and it is clear all bereaved parents and families choose to manage this time in different ways. For many it is important to make things different and break from tradition. During a pregnancy we imagine our babies taking their place in family occasions, their seat at Christmas dinner and their gifts under the tree. When the baby does not come home going to these places and events without them can be incredibly painful. Some couples who have suffered a loss may choose to not even acknowledge Christmas. There are no right or wrong ways to deal with the loss of a baby and realising that can be a massive relief.
Advent to Remember is an idea from Jess Clasby Monk @LegacyofLeo a fellow bereaved mum. The idea is to plan an activity every day of advent to honour your missed loved one – they can be as small or as large as you’d like. A daily activity might be a charitable donation, attending a carol concert or a snugly movie night. But by planning a little something with your loved one in mind can help you get through the days. It has been embraced by the instagram community and if you search for the hashtag #AdventToRemember you will see hundreds of wonderful ideas.
How can we help our friends and family?
One thing that is a common theme when speaking to grieving parents is the potential for this time of year to cause tensions between family and friends. They speak of family members feeling aggrieved as the bereaved avoid a family gathering or heartbreak when living children in the family are included in celebrations but there is no mention of the little ones who didn’t get to stay. We understand that it can be difficult to know what is best to say and do in these situations. Friends and family fear speaking about lost babies will make us upset, so what should they do?
- Don’t forget that even if the family are fortunate enough to have children at home with them they will still be feeling sadness for those not with them. Family photos will never include the whole family anymore. Babies born after a loss (sometimes called rainbow babies) are never a replacement and do not cancel out the grief.
- If in doubt speak to the parents and ask them if there’s anything that they would like to do, send a message if face to face is too daunting.
“We would really like to include baby in our celebrations, do you have any suggestions?”
- If you think it would be appropriate, mention the baby in Christmas cards to show they are in your thoughts, something like “Thinking of ……..” added in can really make a difference.
- Purchase a decoration or keepsake for your own home or to gift to the family as a way to include their little one in the festivities. If it’s something to display in your own home be sure to tell the family or share a photograph.
- Share an act of kindness or charitable donation in memory of the baby and let the family know. Although nothing can make the grief go away knowing that a little kindness or generosity is happening in their memory can mean so much.
- You could support them by attending a Christmas memorial event with them. Setting aside a little bit of time over the hustle and bustle of Christmas can be very special.
Norfolk Sands are holding a Lights of Love service at The Halls in Norwich on 6th December at 19:00
Greenacres, Colney Christmas Services of Remembrance will take place on Sunday 15th December at 11.00am & 2.00pm (contact them to reserve a place).
- If you know someone who has lost a baby and you know they are struggling and might benefit from support please signpost them to organisations who can help
Norfolk and Norwich Baby Bereavement Group – https://www.facebook.com/nnhbbg/
The Sands National Helpline provides a safe, confidential place for anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby. Whether your baby died long ago or recently, they are here for you.
The telephone helpline is free to call from landlines and mobiles on 0808 164 3332.
The helpline team can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Miscarriage Association Phoneline is manned Mon-Fri, 9am – 4pm on 01924 200799
The Samaritans can be contacted 24/7 on 116 123
Or emailed 24/7 via email@example.com