If you are visiting for the first time, this post is part of the series “12 Days of Christmas With You in Heaven”. To learn more about this series, please click here. Aubri’s post is a brilliant read for anyone wanting to help a grieving family during Christmas.
Talk to us. Please don’t assume that saying nothing about our lost one will keep us from hurting. It does the exact opposite. When people who were previously so excited about our impending arrival, our pregnancy, or our child suddenly stop talking about them… it hurts. It can feel as if our angel is forgotten. That is an incredibly lonely feeling, and nobody deserves to feel lonely at Christmas! Shoot us an email! Text us! Let us know you’re thinking of us and our angel. We may get misty, or quiet, or laugh, or any number of reactions… but we will know that you care and that our angel exists in more hearts than our own, and that feels SO good. Ask us what our plans are for the holiday, ask us how we’re feeling, especially if you have the time and the sincerity to back that up with a good listening session.
Understand our limits. We may not be emotionally able to be at every holiday function, event, get-together, and outing. I have heard many times over, that it is sometimes harder to be in the middle of the festivities, laughing, and trying not to remember, than it is to be at home, remembering. When inviting angel families to your Christmas parties, charity events, work functions, cookie exchanges, etc. do not be offended if we politely decline. PLEASE invite us anyway, but if we call to cancel on the day of, or miss it all together, please know that it isn’t you. If we miss a function, please call us to make sure we’re okay. “Hey, we missed you last night! Are you doing all right today? Can I swing by with some of the cookies for you to enjoy?” Let us know that you still love and understand us, even if we space something out.
Let us grieve on our own time. It doesn’t matter if this is our first Christmas with an angel in Heaven, or our 51st. Please understand that grief isn’t something you get over, it’s something you go through. At Christmas, as a grieving parent, seeing “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments, or the stocking that we lovingly prepared, or the Christmas outfit that we had ready may be more than we can handle at times, even if those things were purchased for a little one who has been gone for a long time. Please be cautious with your words. Try this, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, and I know it isn’t a quick process. I am here for you, for as long as you need me to be.” Most angel parents I have spoken with (and I include myself in that list) have had at least one person say something like this to them. It makes ALL the difference, especially at Christmas.
Let us grieve in our own way, and without judgment. Losing a child is so incredibly hard. You know this. We know you know this. So often, people will make comments (in an attempt to be helpful, I’m sure!) that are unintentionally hurtful. If an angel family is grieving in a way that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s okay! I know several angel families who didn’t exhibit much outward grief. Many well-meaning friends kept telling them to not put on such a brave face, or to just go ahead and be sad… It wasn’t what they needed at that time. On the flip side, some angel families are told that their public grief is making people uncomfortable. If you’re concerned about the way your angel family is grieving, try talking to them from a place of no judgment. Maybe try observing. Emulate what you see. If your angel family is laughing, laugh with them. If they are mournful, mourn with them. When I went through my own loss, the most helpful friend was the one who didn’t ask what I needed, but on a day that I was particularly sad, brought me a beautiful daisy, held my hand, put her head on my shoulder and quietly cried with me.
Remember us. This is the number one thing I feel, and have heard from other angel families. At Christmastime, remember us! When that fleeting thought of us, or our angel, flits through your mind please take a moment to let us know. Many angel families have some sort of remembrance tradition to honor their angel during the holidays. Perhaps offer to help. Consider writing a letter to our loved one in Heaven, or maybe donating to a charity in our name or our angel’s name. Little things that memorialize our lost ones help us feel that we, and they, are important to the world. That goes a long way for helping to fill the hole many of us have at Christmastime.
Finally, know that if you are trying, you are doing enough. So many people feel as if they’re not doing it “right” or being helpful… please know that we know you care! Angel families are so grateful for any love that is shown to our loved ones and us. The perspective changes when you go through a loss. You understand how meaningful each kind word or gentle reminder of friendship can mean. I heard (and have seen as wall vinyl or plaques in the homes of angel families) a beautiful statement regarding loss. “Because someone we love is in Heaven, we feel Heaven in our home.” We invite you to feel that with us. Christmas as an angel family, or with an angel family, can be an amazingly beautiful and spiritual thing.