Oberon, our son who died, is very present for us during the holiday season. He lived on the outside from November 24, 2014 – December 28, 2014. There’s absolutely no way for our family to go through the winter holidays without constantly thinking of Oberon. When he was alive, he got presents, we were given ornaments with his name on them, he met Santa, and we bought him a stocking.
Now that the stocking was in our home, in following years it didn’t feel right to keep it boxed up. We needed to figure out a way to incorporate Obie’s stocking into our family traditions moving forward. I don’t think our family is alone in this, stockings are a cherished childhood memory for many of us. One that we wanted to pass down to our babies. After our babies died, we have to think a bit differently. Below are some ideas to continue including your baby’s stocking in holiday traditions.
Have Santa give gifts the family can share.
Instead of individualized gifts, these could be gifts that encourage family time – such as games, books to be read aloud, craft supplies, family movies, or an outing. With adult family members or older children, you could agree that everyone has to come up with a family activity / gift to include in your baby’s stocking so there are surprises for everyone.
Write letters to your baby.
These can be just from immediate family, or you can ask extended family or friends to participate as well. You can read the letters on a designated day, or you can read them here and there when it feels like the right time.
Document donations or random acts of kindness.
Throughout the year (or during a designated time), keep track of good deeds done in memory of your baby. You could ask friends and family to share with you what they’ve done, and write down the ones you’ve done yourself. Read them aloud during the holidays or save them for the next year to help remember all the beautiful ways your baby’s memory continues on. Twist: Make a paper chain using the individual acts and watch it grow year over year.
Buy toys for donation.
Many people buy toys to donate during the holiday season – what better place to store these donations as you acquire them than in your child’s stocking?
Fill the stocking with gifts from / connected to your baby.
This is the one my family does. We fill Obie’s stocking with gifts to help us take care of ourselves – personal care products, socks and undies, food, etc. The connection or us is that when Obie left the NICU, the nurses gave us huge bags of things to help take care of him at home in hospice care. That is a very cherished memory for us, and so we continue it by having these types of gifts continue year after year in our family. Twist: It doesn’t need to be in a stocking to give gifts connected to your baby. If there’s something that has a connection for you, sharing it with your loved ones during the holidays can be a comforting way to express your love.
Other holiday ideas.
While this article is focused on stocking stuffers, there were some other traditions and ideas that I wanted to share.
- Traveling for the holidays? Bring decorations and items to dedicate a special place for your baby. Many of us have tokens around our home connected to our baby, and it can feel isolating without them.
- Dedicate a tree (small or large) to your baby and collect meaningful ornaments. Or if you have a live tree or other plant in memory of your baby, add some festive touches to it.
- Make ornaments each year for your baby or for other loss families. You can organize this in local or internet support groups, or participate in the Remembering Together Ornament Swap (note the swap is closed for this year).
- Decorate a special holiday-themed candle for your baby to light throughout the season.
What holiday traditions does your family have that remember and honor your baby?