Christmas is not an easy time of the year if you are newly bereaved, but if you have lost your child or children, then no matter how many years pass, it doesn’t get much easier. In some ways it gets more difficult. This is my fourth entirely childless Christmas and I have had some really low moments. I’m keeping busy and doing the “right” things, but there is so much to remind me that Christmas will never be the same, never be complete.
I used to love Christmas. Not the materialism part, but what it represented: the love shared amongst friends and family, the hope embodied by the birth of Jesus, the songs. None of that has changed fundamentally, but since losing my children I have changed. It’s hard to find joy when such a big part of me is missing.
Of course I’m not the only one who is struggling with the season. There are lots of other parents who face the same sadness. The relentless reminders of the “joy of the season”, the glitter and the downtown bustle, the advertisements that remind the viewer that “Christmas is for families,” all get to be a bit much. We all have a vacant seat at our table – or more than one – I have two.
The Compassionate Friends (TCF), a wonderful charity that supports bereaved parents and siblings, have published some helpful advice for getting through this season, so if you’re in this position, I hope you’ll have a look.
And if you happen to be reading this, not because you’re bereaved, but you know somebody who is, then I highly recommend spending a few minutes watching this short video, also made by TCF, that might help you understand what your friend is going through.
The advice in that video is simple: One of the best ways you can help your friend or family member who is struggling with the loss of their child – or any closed loved one – no matter how few or how many years have passed – is to “say their name”. If you’re sending a Christmas card, including something like “…and remember xxx”. Our child or loved one is no longer here, but they are still a part of us, and for other people to acknowledge them, to remember them, to talk about them, is something precious. Last year a good friend gave me two stars for our tree, one for each of my children, and she wrote each of their names on the label. Catherine’s star and Pax’s star are on the tree, and it means a lot to me. Giving the gift of remembrance is one of the best things you can do for your bereaved friend.
Nothing can bring our loved one(s) back; the very least we can do is keep their memories alive.