How to Handle the Holidays

December 8, 2009
Cheryl Darnell

The following list might be helpful for parents grieving through the holidays.

  • Remember little things that were unique to your baby and share those memories with those close to you.
  • Bring out special photos of your child (it helps “include” your baby in your celebration).
  • Journal how you feel and how you have healed since last Christmas. (If it’s your 1st Christmas since your baby died, you may want to write out all that you are sad about missing.)
  • Plan ahead and discuss with other family members how you’d like to honor your baby.
  • Share your hesitations, fears, feelings, expectations, and plans with your family, especially those who you plan on being with during the holidays.
  • Make a list of what you normally do for the holidays, and cross out anything that you just can’t handle doing this year or that really doesn’t need to be done- go easy on yourself.
  • Shop online or from catalogs, and shop earlier.
  • Take care of yourself by eating well and exercising.
  • Buy treats from the store instead of spending hours in the kitchen baking.
  • Allow others to help you take care of holiday preparations.
  • Allow yourself to respectfully “bow out” of holiday events such as office parties, etc. You may feel too overwhelmed or drained (emotionally, physically, and/or mentally) to attend these functions, and that’s okay. You may also not be ready to talk about your loss. You may even fear that others will NOT talk about your loss of your baby.
  • Allow yourself to cry, and recognize that the urge will hit at expected as well as unexpected times.
  • Allow yourself also to laugh, to enjoy yourself, and to be at peace.
  • Start new traditions, including changing the location and/or activities of your celebration.
  • Find or do something symbolic that represents your baby (like Susan Duke’s exchanging a “star gift” with her daughter each year- see book reference at the end of this list).
  • Ask your church to put up a “Remembrance Tree” with photo ornaments of loved ones who have passed.
  • Bring joy to another child by purchasing a gift for the Angel Tree in memory of your baby.
  • Reach out to another family in need.
  • Give the money you may have spent on your baby to a charity, to your baby’s siblings, or to another family in need.
  • Give flowers in memory of your baby to your church, a local children’s hospital, or another organization.
  • Serve others by taking holiday goodies or a meal to a family, serving the homeless, visiting children in a local hospital, or visiting elderly in a nursing home.
  • Listen to music that will help lift your spirits.
  • Look for little blessings amidst the loneliness and/or busyness of the season.
  • Write a letter to your baby each Christmas and either keep it in a special place or send it towards heaven at the end of a helium balloon.
  • Try to change your thinking from “all that I’ve lost” to “all the blessings I’ve received because of my baby’s life.”
  • Recognize that the anticipation of the holidays is usually worse than the actual days themselves- which might cause you to “crash” the day after a holiday.
  • Visit the cemetery and send balloons heavenward to include your baby in your celebration.
  • Participate in a memorial service where you can light a candle in remembrance of your child. 
  • Hang a stocking and/or a special ornament for your baby each year.
  • Include your baby’s name on your Christmas card.
  • Talk openly about your baby with family and friends- it will help put them at ease when they wonder whether they should say anything and what they should say.
  • Surround yourself with positive, loving people who will encourage you.
  • Send a note to people you have connected with due to your loss (i.e., firemen, first responders, nurses, doctors, coroners, chaplains, funeral directors, and others you’ve met because of your baby’s death).
  • Burn a candle on the holiday in memory of your child.
  • Pray. Ask God for help, healing, peace, strength, hope, answers to your questions, peace to accept the unanswered questions, and to help you trust and believe in Him.
  • Read the Bible and ask God to speak to you personally through the Scriptures.
  • Read and think about the promises of God. Pray for God to bring those promises to pass in your life.
  • Call someone for encouragement (such as from a support group if you are attending one).
  • Read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20 and take to heart what the angel of the Lord declared about Jesus: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”


Because God sent Jesus, we have confident hope of being reunited with our precious babies. At a time when you may not feel much like getting in the spirit of the holidays, that is certainly something worth celebrating!


(Included in this list are some suggestions from Grieving Forward by Susan Duke, M.E.N.D.’s (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) November/December 2009 newsletter,  and the SIDS & Infant Death Survival Guide by Joani Nelson Horchler & Robin Rice.)