Remembering a child at Christmas

Last Christmas was so unbearably sad. My eight year old nephew had passed away on the 17th December and we just did not know how to make our way through the ‘season of joy’. Everything was bitter, cold and so very dark.

Every year, for the past 13 years we have been living in Ireland, we have spent Christmas together with my sister and her family. Either they have come to us in Ireland or we have gone over to the UK to be with them and it is one of the highlights of our year. There was no ‘light’ in the highlight last year, we flew over a few days early as we needed to be with them for the funeral of their younger son on the 23rd.

My sister is also one of my closest friends: we are not afraid of telling one another when we have hurt each other, we forgive one another easily and we share the same sense of humour. When we phone each other it is usually as the other was just about to pick up the receiver. I haven’t been able to know what it’s like for her in her darkest moments but I do know how much I hurt as his aunt and godmother and that’s bad enough.

So this year with the build up to Christmas, we are not sure how to proceed. We can’t face the thoughts of celebrating – celebrations are supposed to be happy events. I have to say that seeing the Christmas stuff in the shops right now makes me feel a bit sick.

I know there are many parents out there who have had to endure this sadness every year and they have learnt how to navigate each anniversary. I feel like we need help and advice, somehow we have to integrate our sadness within the good things that Christmas represents.

Based on my sister and her husband’s wishes we have decided to go back to their home again this year instead of the usual swap. Traditionally we would have gone to the Christmas Eve service in their village which is very child orientated. We couldn’t face it last year and I’m still not sure whether I can this year although I feel that worship is central to the day.

I am grateful we have the children to share Christmas with. They have a very different perspective to adults on grief and loss. Sometimes a bit of normality and continuation of tradition is healthiest for them. I know this year I will be looking though their eyes a bit more to find the wonder in Christmas. I will also be seeking ways to remain grounded in the message of hope that the day represents as this is the message that brings light to the darkness. Like the Wise Men, I will be following the star which pointed to the Light of the world.

I am not going to be focused on the fluff, the stuff, we have enough.

I wouldn’t mind if you’d like to share any ideas that helped your family remember a child at Christmas time.



26 thoughts on “Remembering a child at Christmas”

  1. I’m so sorry for your families loss. I lost my little boy 6 years ago.
    Christmas is a really tough time when you have lost loved ones but some of the new traditions we do are to visit my little boys grave on Christmas day with a little christmas gift and every year I buy a new ornament to hang on the tree with his name on. I also decorate my sons grave every year and give him his own tree with solar powered fairy lights on.
    I’m not going to lie, this first Christmas will be really tough so don’t put too much pressure on yourselves and just do what feels right xx

  2. I agree with Kelly’s comment, remembering the good times and happy memories won’t take away the sadness but it may help.
    My husband’s mum passed away suddenly 4 days before Christmas nearly 4 years ago and it is a sad time but we raise a glass to her and remember how much she loved Christmas and seeing us all.
    So sorry for your family’s loss. #TheMMLinky

  3. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. There’s never a ‘good’ time to lose a loved one, but there are definitely times that make it even harder, if that’s possible. I really don’t know what I’d do, never, thankfully having been in your shoes, but I’d like to think we’d just spend the time as a family, remembering the good times. Not celebrating the season, but celebrating family. Thanks for joining in with #TheMMLinky

  4. My friend lost her almost 13 year old the end of November four years ago. Each Christmas morning the village holds a swim in his name. It’s a lovely way of remembering him and for my friend it makes her feel he’s had a special part of Christmas morning all to himself and she is more able to ‘enjoy’ the rest of the day.
    I know not everyone has a Christmas swim but maybe some routine specially for him, such as releasing a balloon at his grave or lighting a candle or ‘giving a special present from him’ to his sibling and a small one back for the grave?
    It’s so very hard. I’m sure last year’s Christmas was a blur so this one is very difficult. All I can say is what my friend tells other parents in this situation, “You can do this.”

      1. I wanted to add this as well. It might be hard for your sister to do something but maybe you can contact the Church in her village and see if there is some way of making it special.

        1. To make things a little complicated, they moved house a couple of months before he died and although the funeral was held in the church from the previous village, they have not been back there. I think it will be hard for them to do that but I agree it would be a special place to have it.

  5. Christmas was never the same for our family after my brother died – in fact as a result I am not a fan of Christmas 32 years on. Saying that, it’s different when there are young children involved when you want them to experience the Christmas magic while they are young enough. My suggestion would be to change tradition and do something completely different – even if it’s adding or doing one thing different – it’s going to be painful and I don’t think you can avoid that sadly – maybe something Oliver would have done/wanted. AS you mention, there are so many people for whom Christmas will be a time of sadness.

    1. Oh that’s heartbreaking, just thinking about how it will be affecting his surviving brother for the rest of his life. I suppose you’ve made me realise that Christmas will be Christmas, it’s just how we feel on the day that s different and there will be ways to make it memorable or special.

      1. I was 19 when my brother died and he was 17 so we were out the other side from Christmas ‘magic’. Of course when our children came along we still did all the wonderful things you do at Christmas with children and made our own family traditions – It’s just left me as a bit of a ba-humbug sort of person!

  6. wakinguponthewrongsideof50

    One of my closest friends lost her son 20 years ago….he was 3. She is always in pain because of this, but As she had 2 other children, she just pushes through as best she can. Her son died in June, by Father’s Day and his birthday….she is always a wreck for that 10 day period, so I can’t imagine when a child has died close to a holiday….to not celebrate is not fair to the other child, but maybe do something smaller, and have a celebration at another time. I hope you all find peace, or as much of it as you can

  7. The Indecisive Eejit

    Thats…..ach I don’t even know what to say. I am sorry for your loss.
    My Granda passed away on Christmas day, it was never the same for me. Last year was our first without my Mum, but I think this one will be harder, because last year we were still numb.
    That said, there were Robins at the bird table and rainbows in the sky so I think she was there. As people kept telling me, she’s happy and well and I hold onto that.
    You should too, he’s happy and well and no doubt will be with you on Christmas day x
    I wish I knew smart comforting things to say, but I don’t, so have a hug x

  8. If I could offer you and your family any comfort in this, it would be to remember your nephew is celebrating Christmas for eternity in heaven with the One whom Christmas is all about. This is one thing I try to keep in mind when I think of my niece who went home to be with the Lord eight years ago. I met Haley only once, but we formed a bond that I still feel to this day. I have the feeling this is the relationship you had with Oliver. May God’s peace be upon you this coming Christmas and always.

  9. Wow! So sorry for the pain! I wish I had some wise words of wisdom, but I don’t know. From similar type of grief, all I could say is that the pain never goes away. The sharpness of the pain dulls, over time, but it never completely leaves. That’s not very encouraging, but there is hope in that you will make it through, even when it’s not ever quite the same. Blessings and peace to your family.

  10. Oh I wish I had some answers for you. I feel for you and your family but words feel insignificant. I hope some people have some suggestions you can consider and possibly take forward xx

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