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Christmas: 2015


CHRISTMAS CARDS: That is all I need to say to give rise to a range of emotions from people who have lost children or suffered miscarriages or are still hoping to have a family. I have always loved sending and receiving Christmas cards. I remember Christmas of 1996, propping two-year-old Elizabeth and six-month-old Martin next to each other for a photo. The only way I could get Martin, who could barely sit up, to look at the camera was to allow him to suck on a candy cane. Snap! Elizabeth had on a black velvet dress and he had on a red flannel shirt.  I sent copies of this photo out in my Christmas card that year naively thinking that my adorable photo of my children would be greeting those I love with a mutually cheerful connection. Then, that summer I lost Margaret and that “Joy” or "Have a happy new year” didn’t make much sense anymore, and sending a picture without Margaret seemed terribly wrong and sad.
Recently an acquaintance at work asked to give my book to a friend’s daughter who had lost her baby. “If you think it would help at all,” she heaved. “They-this couple is not doing well.  Do you know that they are sending out Christmas cards with a picture of themselves with the dead baby! Can you believe this? I am so upset! That is wrong, Robin!”
I met her disillusioned and angry eyes and tried to explain. “Well, they are parents now. This baby made them parents; made them a mom and dad, but they cannot show this baby off to the world because she has died. Having this baby die truly broke their hearts and no one else will understand their love for this baby. You see, our human hearts cannot fathom how painful the loss of a baby is so outsiders who look in at a couple who lose their baby want them to behave like they are moving on and want them to act like they are feeling better, but right now that couple is mourning and they are not going to feel better soon and they will never feel the same again. You must respect that there is not a right way for them to grieve so however they decide to demonstrate their grief and love for this baby should be accepted because no one knows exactly what it feels like to be them right now.”

When I lost Margaret, I no longer felt I could send out a happy Christmas picture of my older two sucking candy canes or splashing in the leaves because Margaret was missing. I did not know what to do. I too, like this couple wanted people to know that Margaret would always be a part of our family and would always be on my mind.
Excerpt from my book: 12/1997
This year I dread the holiday. I want to wish everyone well, but I also want to acknowledge the loss of and the love for our daughter….I decide I do want to buy Christmas cards… My stomach twists in pain and my eyes fill with tears as every card I read makes me think of Margaret so I leave and drive around. Later, I come back and settle on one with an angel… I decide that since we cannot show off our special baby girl, Margaret, that we will place a star on each card as a symbol of her place in our family and to let everyone know how much we miss her.”

Each couple and person dealing with loss of a baby will come up with a way to deal with their loss that feels respectful to them. Whatever their choice may be, whether it is boycotting Christmas cards, starting a new tradition, coming up with a symbol as I did , writing a poem or yes, sending a picture of a baby that died, I only wish for healing and peace this holiday season and new year to all of these families of loss. xo