Angels and Rainbows at Christmas Time - Coping with Loss over the Festive Season

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

I would like to preface this post with a few statements.

I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas, and Chanukah is not overly important to me. This does not mean that this time of year is not hard.

Everyone grieves and remembers their Angels differently and that's okay.

I cannot speak to what others feel; only what I feel. I cannot speak for those who have had miscarriage or stillbirths, but I can empathise with them.

I have lost a parent, grandparents and friends; no loss can compare to the loss of one's baby - it is just not the same. We have no memories to comfort us. This in no way diminishes your loss or your pain - it's not a competition.

This post may be triggering or difficult for some people.

These are my thoughts. They may be wrong, but they are still in my head.

This time of year is one of those seasons where there is a huge focus on families and fun, blessings and gratitude, birth and renewal.

Images of happy families and frolicking children abound and films about joy, redemption and happy endings are everywhere.

Our pain is real

For those dealing with the pain of losing their babies, this time of year holds a special kind of terror and sadness. Regardless of how many other children there are, how much fun is had or how much time has passed, there is always that little piece of heartbreak that can never be healed; that little corner of what could have been that haunts us.

Seeing other people's children or pregnancies can be particularly hard at this time of year and the more time passes, the less compassion others have. They believe that you can just move on and that you should be able to be normal again, so they don't have to feel uncomfortable or deal with your issues.

This is where neonatal loss, stillbirth or late term miscarriage differ from all other kinds of loss - we can never get over it or move on. There is no salve for our hearts. Our rainbow children are beloved beyond measure, but they do not replace our Angels, just like subsequent children do not replace their older siblings. Our pain, regardless of our beliefs or whatever else is happening in the world, looms large at this time of year, simply because of the celebratory kind of vibe going on.

We deal differently

We all handle things differently, and right now is where it shows. 

Some of us may decorate our babies graves, which may seem morbid to the layman, but consider that the first real act of mothering many of us could do for our children was to bury them, and if this is the only thing we can do for our children, we do it with great care.

Some may include their Angels in all their celebrations; hang stockings up for them, buy gifts, which they later donate, or try to find subtle or overt ways of keeping their memory sacred and alive. The last thing we want to do is to make our Angels feel left out or forgotten. It's not crazy. It's love.

If I go a day without thinking of my Angelica, I feel terrible. Since she was born we have lit a pair of candles for her every single night, no matter where we are or what we are doing. (We have been known to forget and wake up in the middle of the night and do it).

Some of us struggle more than others. We don't talk about it but may seem quiet and sad. If we have other children, we try to hide our pain from them, but we know they see it, and we know it spoils things. It's not selfish. It's loss.

For those of us who don't celebrate the holiday, it's all kind of strange. We want to do something to affirm the life that was lost and is missed, but we don't really have a platform for our story. Chanukah isn't really that kind of holiday, at least not for me. At least it's more of a celebration than other holy days that are more serious or sad. 

Maybe I just feel that way because we have no local family and our rainbow is still too little to celebrate with. Having said that, I am really doing okay this year; it isn't as bad as I thought it might be.

The point is, the essence of "the season" is infectious and those who are merely witnesses have to find other ways to express their love and grief, be they of other religions or none, and it can be hard.

Support is a life saver

Support can make a huge difference and it is so important to find some, be it in your "real life" or your virtual one. I went to a grief counsellor (Mr C insisted - he was right because it really helped us both) and attended SANDS meetings at first.

Talking about how you feel and how you are coping is okay and your people should not be afraid of talking about your Angel - tell them it's okay - they don't actually know that. Most people avoid the subject for fear of upsetting the mother. Angel mothers love to know that their Angels are remembered; that people acknowledge that they existed, even if they never had the chance at having a life.

Throughout this time (I refuse to call it a journey), I have had the support of some incredible women I have never met. I belong to a few secret Facebook groups (three actually) for women that have lost their precious little ones (one for those who have lost, one for those who have lost and are expecting a rainbow baby, and one for those who have lost and are raising their rainbow babies). Each one of us is different, from all over the UK mostly, and each one of us has a different experience, outlook and perspective to share. 

These groups have changed my life. They have answered my questions without judgement, lifted me up when I was down, allowed me to support them so I can feel strong, made me feel normal and shared their stories so I do not have to feel alone in my grief, or guilty in my joy.

We honour our children by sharing them and their stories. These groups have given me the community I needed to do that, and in that community, I have found some precious friendships that live just there in that space that to me is so sacred.

We do not expect others to understand our hearts, that is why we have each other. These women are so central to my life now, that I cannot imagine not laughing and crying with them, or even occasionally rolling my eyes at them.

It's okay to be happy. It's okay to be sad

From one day to the next, none of us know how we are going to feel. That is part of living with loss. It is part of our new life that some days we will be okay, and then we see, hear or remember something that will make us feel anger, guilt, anxiety or sadness (or a whole gamut of confusing feelings), a little or a lot.

The one thing I know is that to survive this, we have to be okay with that and deal with each day as it comes. We cannot be hard on ourselves for feeling what we feel. We must be kind to ourselves and show ourselves as much compassion as we hope to receive from others.

Right now, I am in a good place. Other than struggling with sleep, my Rainbow baby has brought light and joy into my life that I never expected to feel again. She is a treasure and although I am still sad, in this house, we talk to and about Angelica all the time and we bless her like we do her sister on every Sabbath. Today I am okay, and that is all I need.

With that, I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas / happy Chanukah (etc.) and a season of kindness and compassion; whatever your beliefs. May you find warmth and support for a good New Year.

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