Over the Rainbow: Finding Healing and Joy During the Holidays
I LOVE the holidays! This really is the most wonderful time of the year! A time that brings out the best in everyone—the happiness, the love, the hope, and the selflessness. The thing I love most about the holidays is watching my son experience and enjoy every moment! Even more than I love the beautiful decor, festive music, and yummy treats, I love seeing the magic of the season through his eyes! But I can't help but wish that I could also see it through my daughter's eyes!
Baby's first Christmas! It's a milestone so many of us love to celebrate. But when we're celebrating the holidays without the baby that should have been, it can be so, so hard! Maybe it's because of infertility and the long years of waiting for a baby to finally join your family. Or because of miscarriage and the pain of losing a child before you even had the opportunity to dream and plan and get to know him...or her. Or because your baby's life silently ended before it even began. Or because you only got to hold her for a few precious hours one beautiful September evening as the sun set and her life slowly faded away. As beautiful, and magical, and wonderful as this time of year is, it can also be one of the loneliest and most painful because these are the moments you want to spend with family and those you love. And when someone you love so dearly is missing, it leaves the tiniest hole in your heart. I probably should have realized by now that this tiny hole in my heart will never fully heal. As time goes on and the years pass, the pain will slowly fade, but I think every grieving parent will always have moments of grief and loss that come quickly, unexpectedly, and sharply. I'll never forget the evening I had to walk out of the room in tears a few months after our angel daughter was born. I really didn't expect to get emotional that evening, but as I made a simple request to my family to record their memories of our daughter, the tears began to flow and I couldn't even speak. I also felt this unexpected and intense grief one Christmas morning more than a year after our daughter's birth, as I watched my sweet niece unwrap a present to find a beautiful baby doll. And I wished so badly that my daughter could be here to unwrap a baby doll of her own. But then a few minutes later, as I opened a gift my sweet sister-in-law had so carefully and thoughtfully picked out for me, the tears really began to flow. Not because I was sad our daughter wasn't there with us that Christmas morning, but because my sister-in-law's gift reminded me that she was there. Even if she wasn't physically there and I wasn't holding her in my arms, she was there in our hearts and in our memories. As much as the holidays can occasionally amplify the feelings of loss and sadness we feel while struggling with infertility and loss of a sweet baby, I don't think there's anything better for soothing your grief and healing your heart than immersing yourself in the happiness, peace, joy, and hope of the holiday season! In the months following our daughter's birth and death, I was so, so glad I had the opportunity to drown my sorrows by preparing for the holidays, spending time with family, and enjoying the beautiful moments and the special spirit of the season. At a time when my world seemed so dark, I NEEDED the happiness of the holidays more than ever! I wish I could include a list here of specific tried-and-true ways to immerse yourself in holiday cheer and suddenly erase all of the pain that comes from infertility and/or the loss of a baby. But I don't think it's that simple. I think we find the healing and joy we're all seeking as we search for joy in the simple, happy moments of our lives, during the holiday season and also throughout the year. I don't think we should ignore our grief and act like we're not struggling. In fact, believe me. I've tried this, and it does NOT work. Instead, I think this joy comes from allowing ourselves to grieve the loss of the child we wish could be here, while also appreciating what we do have. One thing I'm trying to do is really live in each moment and enjoy these magical years with our son. I know these years with him will go so fast, and I don't want to miss out on special moments with him because I'm wishing I could also spend them with her. And instead of only wishing our daughter could be sitting next to our niece as they both unwrap a baby doll this Christmas, I also want to be glad that I get to be a part of this beautiful little girl's life—to love her and to watch her grow! I also think much of the joy we find during the holiday season comes from selflessly giving to and loving others. It comes from helping others in their time of need, instead of focusing on our own struggles and needs. I love one special way I recently learned about from the mother of an angel baby who I look up to and admire. Every year, she and her son pick out and donate toys to a child in need who is the same age her angel baby daughter would be if she were alive today. I'm sure the emotions she feels each year as she shops for another little girl are very tender, but I'm also sure this sweet act of service helps her feel like her daughter is a part of their holiday celebration.
Instead of focusing solely on the loss we've experienced, I hope we can find happiness in the magical moments and in giving to others. And if you find yourself struggling to overcome the darkness and sadness that comes from the struggle of infertility or the pain of losing a baby, I hope you can find healing and joy by immersing yourself in the magic of this beautiful holiday season.
The "Over the Rainbow" series is for, and from, mothers who have lost their little ones or experienced infertility. We know this can be a very sensitive subject, and is sometimes hard to talk about. We hope we are able to help others through these tough experiences as we share our stories with you.