The Christmas holidays are a wonderful time of year, rich with tradition and family gatherings. Loss, however, can quickly change Christmas in the hearts of those who suffer its sting, from merry and bright to dark and dreary. Christmas losses are some of the most difficult from which to recover, however; to lose a child is particularly harrowing during this time of year.
I was at the theater today when my daughter called and asked me questions about infant caskets. I asked her why she wanted the information, and she informed me that a family in her church had lost their infant today. Her heart was heavy, and she was near tears, as she asked me questions on behalf of this unfortunate family.
The loss of an infant is always a very difficult and sad experience. At this time of year, however, when all is joyous, the juxtaposition of grief creates a stark reality, which can very easily become quite complicated.
I attended a Christmas luncheon this week with a dear friend. The guest speaker gave a wonderful presentation on the gift of the Savior’s birth. Although this family is a religious family, hearing others say that their baby is with Jesus will bring them little comfort this holiday season. Cheerfully wrapped baby gifts in brightly colored Christmas paper, will now remain unopened and eventually have to be returned. This experience is, and will continue to be, dreadful for this sweet couple. Most likely, this young mother and father will suffer the depths of their sorrows every Christmas from this one forward.
My daughter has another friend who some years back, lost a child during the holidays. This family places their beloved child’s empty shoes just outside of his bedroom door each Christmas to mark their love for him and continued sorrow over his loss. Although this may seem a painful reminder to those of us who have not lost a child during the holiday season, it is actually an act of healing. Creating new traditions to memorialize a significant loss helps one create a place from which to honor their loved one and allows them to participate in holiday activities without trivializing their loss and heartache.
Friends will want to know what to say to this poor couple who lost their baby earlier today. They will want to know if it is still appropriate to wish them a Merry Christmas or give them gifts that have already been purchased. Some will worry about the effects of Christmas cards already in the mail or parties already planned.
The luncheon speaker said the greatest gift one can give another during difficult times, is not a casserole or a clever card for cheer. “The greatest gift,” she said, “one can give another during the most dreadful experience of life, is prayer.” Supplicating to the Father on behalf of another’s sorrow, for their comfort and recovery, is perhaps the kindest and most significant gift one human being can give another. After all, was not Christ’s supplication to his Father on our behalf, one of his greatest gifts to mankind?
The Christmas holidays are a wonderful time of year, rich with tradition and family gatherings. My heart bleeds for these two families who have suffered such profound losses. Tonight when my family kneels in prayer at the close of our day, we will offer a prayer for these and all other families suffering the poignant experience of loss during their absence of Christmas joy. I hope you will too.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and professional speaker. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences in their "Pursuit of Excellence". It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.