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It’s this thought that hurts the most:

This was the year you were supposed to be holding a little one.

A baby who would be the best gift of all this Christmas. You would rock her to sleep on Christmas Eve, in that special baby blanket—the one you were keeping just for her.

But instead of bringing your new bundle of joy to the family Christmas, you’re picking up the pieces of a broken soul, one that hides behind a forced smile.

Instead of buying that special holiday outfit for your baby, you’re walking past the children’s section of the department store, feeling the deep ache of what could have been.

Instead of putting an ornament on the tree –the one that says Baby’s First Christmas, you toss the ornaments back in the box. What does it matter anyway?

Pretending only makes the wound more raw, not less.

Though your friends know you are hurting, they do not know what to say.

They avoid bringing up your baby’s name.

They talk about everything but your loss, because they don’t know how desperate you are to hear your baby’s name—just once—brought up in a conversation.

They don’t know what a triumph it is that you even showed up, hair done, makeup on, looking like you really are okay, when deep down, you are a mess.

And that’s what it really comes down to: They just don’t know.

It’s not their fault. They want to help. They just don’t understand how to help someone who is going through baby loss.

For those who suffer in silence, who will not hold their babies this Christmas, we search for ways to rewrite this tragedy without forgetting our babies.

A good first step towards healing involves two things:

  1. Creating a yearly tradition of remembering your child
  2. Clinging to what you believe in tough times

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Creating a tradition of remembering

Our family established a tradition of decorating our son’s grave at Christmas. We buy a grave blanket or set up a miniature Christmas tree, add some lights and a special decoration and then take a few pictures. That might seem weird to some people, but for us this is a way to both celebrate Christmas and grieve our loss. We’re not alone in this tradition: the infant section of the cemetery is filled with decorations, toys and flowers honoring the children who  died. (The above picture is from “Babyland” in our cemetery.)

By doing this tradition together, we recognize the person who won’t be with us around the tree on Christmas morning. We give ourselves the space to grieve in the midst of our hectic schedules.

Other memory traditions might include:

  • lighting a candle
  • hanging a memory ornament on the tree
  • donating to a charity in your child’s name

By remembering our children through a family tradition, we take steps towards healing and ensure that they are not forgotten.

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Clinging to what we believe

The brokenhearted don’t need pat answers to their suffering. Anyone who has suffered will tell you that a discourse on why there is pain in the world will not make things better.

Instead, we need promises that act as life preservers for the drowning. This is the hope that holds us up in hard times.

Things to cling to in hard times:

  • Jesus came to restore all things. Though we may not feel it now, he will make all things right someday. He told us: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b
  • He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 3:16). This is a salve to the lonely and broken. We are never alone in our suffering and pain.
  • The man of sorrows, Jesus, understands your sorrow because he also suffered deeply. He is a God who fully understands your pain, because he personally suffered pain, rejection, and death.
  • There is nothing he can’t heal. No matter how broken your life, your relationships, your heart.
  • Let the church circle the wagons and help you. We may not always do it right, but we want to comfort you the best we can. Let us try.
  • Focus on the big picture: Eternal life. The hope of eternity frames our sufferings differently. Instead of thinking that this life is all there is, we look to the future, knowing that what awaits us in heaven is better than we can imagine here: a place of no more tears and being with Jesus forever. A place where all things will be made right—finally.

This is how the broken cope when our arms are empty.

We celebrate how Christ breaks through our brokenness and gives us hope again.

Hanging onto Hope with you,

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Sara

4 Comments on When your arms are empty this Christmas: How to deal with baby loss during the holidays

  1. I’m so sorry Faith. You are right, the hurt is real. I just want to acknowledge that for all the parents out there. And the name you give a child is special and validates their life. Thanks for sharing that. Hugs to you and your family.

  2. Thank you Sara for your words. I wouldn’t have been holding a baby but we would have known the gender and had a name. The hurt is real.

  3. I delivered my daughter still born during my 25th week of pregnancy on May 28th this year. Someone from ECC recommended I read your blog and I’m so glad they led me to you. You always speak directly to my heart. Your words are comforting and healing. I always find myself shaking my head “yes!” while reading thinking how good it feels to know someone else “gets it”. I hate that you also know the pain of losing a child but I’m so thankful God is speaking to me through you, reminding me I’m not alone in this. Thank you for sharing your heart and helping to heal mine.

    • Heather, I’m so sorry that you lost your baby girl. My heart hurts to hear that. Thank you for your kind words about this blog–it’s an honor to help other women who are going through the loss of a child, although I wish none of us knew the pain of this loss and had our babies in our arms instead. But I’m thankful that God gives us the comfort of others and in knowing we are not alone on this journey.

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