Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time but — for many people and for many reasons — it can also be a time of sadness.
As the year draws to a close Christmas becomes the culmination of the past 12 months — a time when we reflect on what we’ve done, what we have gained and what we have lost.
For thousands of Australian parents — not to mention grandparents and other family members — mourning the loss of their baby, Christmas can be a painful reminder. A reminder of the dreams they had and the life they thought they’d be living. Of hopes crushed.
It is estimated that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage in Australia each year and about 3000 babies are either stillborn or die in the first 28 days after birth.
And according to Melissa Zaini, a parent supporter at Sands — an organisation dedicated to miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death support — the first Christmas after losing your baby is the hardest.
“[It] is the hardest because it is raw and unknown,” she says.
“Although the pain is still there, over time, it does get easier.”
Melissa’s son, Harry Joseph, was born face presentation and sadly sustained a brain stem haemorrhage. She struggled through the first Christmas after Harry’s death for the sake of her two older children. It wasn’t easy.
Melissa has the following advice for other parents facing Christmas while mourning the loss of a baby.
How to cope at Christmas after infant or pregnancy loss
Do whatever feels right for you — there’s no right or wrong
“You might find that you are not sure what you want to do until the last minute. Don’t feel like you have to have a plan. You can tell your friends and family that you will decide whether or not to join them on the day.”
Keep it low key and be honest about your feelings
“My two other boys love the festive season. The first Christmas after Harry died was extremely difficult, however I felt I still needed to go through the motions of Christmas for them, but I kept it low key. I was tearful and had a meltdown. I told my children I missed their baby brother and they were good about it. We continued with the day.”
Talk openly to your partner and family
“Discuss how you are feeling and what you may all want to do. It’s a great way to help you prepare each other and can make the holiday period a comforting and peaceful time.”
Find a way to honour your baby
“Doing something to honour your baby during the festive season, like giving a donation, lighting a candle or planting a tree can bring much needed comfort and can become a great family tradition.
“Each year, we donate a Christmas gift to charity in Harry’s honour. We always buy him a present and leave it under the Christmas tree and open it at his resting place. We also make sure that we write Harry’s name on Christmas cards too.”
-written with information from Sands
The Sands Support Line is available 24/7 this Christmas and every other day. All Sands Parent Supporters understand the heartbreak and devastation following the death of a baby, as they too have been there. Phone 1300 072 637 or visit www.sands.org.au