Written by Alexis Marie Chute, Guest Blogger
If your heart has been broken by the loss of a child in miscarriage, stillbirth or any time after delivery, the holidays may be tough. It’s a season that emphasizes children, family and togetherness. All the things bereaved parents yearn for.
When a baby dies, no matter what the age of the fetus or the child may have been, parents are left shaken, shattered and searching for hope. When my son, Zachary, passed away in my arms just moments after entering the world, I felt like my heart was torn in two. Even though those moments I had with him were heartbreaking, I also treasured each and every one. Nothing, I discovered, could part a mom and dad from the love they have for their child.
What I didn’t learn until later, however, was that losing a baby very tangibly means the loss of their future. I knew this conceptually, but on a practical level, this translates into the absence of touchable objects, photographs and mementos. You can’t save their first drawing, report card or Christmas photo with Santa. While I have bursting memory boxes for my living children, Zachary’s box is mostly filled with air.
I did save the blanket Zack was wrapped in after birth. The baby hat that matched the onesie we dressed him in also lives in his box. I was fortunate to have a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer at his birth. That one small album of pictures is another object I treasure. But besides these things, there is not much I can physically cling to on the rough days.
This is why memory-making is so important in life in general, and especially after the loss of a child. As an artist and writer, using my passions to help me remember Zachary comes very naturally to me. In the six years since his death, I have experimented with creating many kinds of keepsakes. These are things I add to Zach’s box, replacing the air with objects that help me remember.
The holidays are a great time to get creative and celebrate the short but important life of your child. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Sew: Make a stocking for your baby to hang on the mantle. Visit a fabric store and choose meaningful colors, patterns and textured fabrics. Cut out the first letter of your child’s name and sew it to the front of the stocking.
- Art: Cut a large piece of cardstock into a circle to make a collage wreath. Include photographs of your family and your baby if you have them, along with magazine clippings, drawings and meaningful words. Use a hole-punch at the top and then loop through a ribbon to use in hanging the wreath.
- Make: Buy a candle making kit and create candles that you can burn every holiday season in memory of your baby. Choose colors and smells that bring you joy. You can also include little objects like sea shells or pieces of jewelry in the candle so that when you burn it, these small keepsakes reveal themselves over time.
- Write: Buy or make a Christmas card or write on holiday themed note paper. Write a letter to your son or daughter. Share memories from his or her birth, how you are coping, and what brings you joy this time of year.
- Photograph: Start a tradition of taking a holiday picture while holding your deceased baby’s photo, blanket, urn or another memorable object. This symbolically shows that your child is still a part of the family and honors his or her life.
- Craft: Decorate a Christmas ornament for the tree. You can incorporate a photo, your baby’s name and even symbolic words to you like forever, love, hope, joy, remembering. Some ornaments can be opened to allow a photograph or small object to be placed inside. You can also use acrylic paint, glue, sparkles and scrapbooking stickers to create all kinds of meaningful designs.
ALEXIS MARIE CHUTE is an award-winning author, artist, filmmaker, curator, and inspirational speaker. Her memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss, and the award-winning YA fantasy series, The 8th Island Trilogy.