Let’s not beat around the bush – you and I have lost a cherished child; a long-awaited for, dearly loved son or daughter and there is nothing in the world that you want more than them for Christmas. Our inability to have them spurs unimaginable sorrow and the most rotten feelings – anger, guilt, sadness, bitterness, maybe rare laughter and joy, but mostly distance and lament. How can I possibly be kind this Christmas when the cruelest, most unkind thing in the world has happened to me? How can I give when so much has been taken from me?
No one can ever know the pain we feel till they see the name they gave their baby etched onto a cold stone monument. It is etched deeply into our hearts too, making our heart so hard at times. Kindness can seem like a ridiculous or foreign concept, especially in the thick of grief.
Kindness to ourselves
Kindness is not a big act or a grand gesture, nor does it have to be exhausting or strenuous. But maybe the first person we need to start being kind to is ourselves, showing affection to this body that carried this precious life, that carries the traces, lines, and evidence of their existence. Being gentle with our minds and souls that have carried heavy burdens of pain and unnecessary guilt on a daily basis. Tenderly caring for ourselves by giving our body and mind what it needs – whether that is some quiet time, some pampering, or distance from those situations that hurt us or make our grieving so much harder. Try to honour and respect the vessel that carried this sweet little life, for however long – it is beautiful and deserves kindness.
Kindness to our contacts
This one is hard (and I’m still learning this one), but maybe we can try to be kind and forgiving of others, especially when they hurt us. It can be deliberate cruelty, unintentional ‘quick-fix’ comments, or triggers that make this season difficult. I know that you have suffered through a lot of these already, and I’m sure you have some horrific examples of inconsiderate comments or actions. They hurt – they cut deep, I know. Forgive them anyway. Whether they did it in order to push us into healing because it’s too uncomfortable for them, or whether just the sight of their babies makes the sting of our aching even sharper… forgive them. Forgive them for your sake, for your healing, because you deserve freedom and kindness for your own soul. Then walk away from that situation… because that is a kindness to yourself.
Kindness to our family
I often forget that my parents are grieving a grandchild, my husband a daughter, and my children a sibling. To me, I carried this baby, surely my grief is so much more than theirs. And while that is true, I have to remember that does not negate their grief. My grief is incomparable, but that does not mean their grief is not important too. And they may not cope with their sense of loss very well either – they may be saying those same unhelpful comments we find hurtful because they think it’s going to make it all better. Kindness can be gently and patiently showing them that grief can be shared, not sped up, and our love for our dear one can be valued and spoken of. It may not be easy to speak about it, about them, especially at a time that seems to be all about festivities and exuberance, but it can also be so nourishing and enriching.
Kindness to our own community
Countless times, even we in the pregnancy and infant loss community can subconsciously (or even overtly) say unintentionally unkind things; sometimes it is by comparing our losses by gestational age or numbers of losses, or criticising how we would have handled this or that situation. Where we should be finding our greatest consolation and support, sometimes we are faced with unintentional comparisons and judgments. Maybe we should take a second to guard our words and show kindness to one another and ourselves, in respect for what we’ve all suffered. No loss is greater, harder or more acute than the other, and what we would possibly do in someone else’s shoes offers no support to the person currently in those shoes. If two mothers lost their sons in the exact same way and their stories were exactly the same in every aspect, they would still grieve very differently. But the undercurrent is still the same for both: love for their baby. So let’s extend love to one another this Christmas when our grief is often the most complicated and we need kindness from the community of people who understand us the most.
Kindness to our babies
Finally, let us be kind to our children, those beautiful babies we cruelly had to say goodbye to, and daily mourn and miss. It can be so hard to ‘celebrate’ Christmas when we are feeling so much heaviness and grief, yet we feel the pressure to try to suppress it for the sake of others. Well, I say no to that!!! Being kind to ourselves is being kind to our babies and giving them their place in our lives, even at Christmas, even when they are not physically present. At risk of flogging the overused phrase, our grief is the great expression of our love for our babies. So let us do what heals us and what honours them. Whether it is something personal or public, a small ritual or one-off tribute, or something within yourself, the memory of your beautiful baby is yours to honour and share as you wish, as you need to.
When this season is all about jubilation and cheer, and it is all you can do just to survive it, maybe gentle kindness is all you need – for yourself, for your family, for your precious baby. At a time where our heartbreak and longing is more keenly felt, kindness and self-care is the greatest gift you can give yourself this Christmas. Go gently.