Saturday, December 27, 2014


There is a particular weirdness that goes along with having a newborn baby boy die at birth around Christmastime. No time of year is better or worse for having your baby die. It's just all bad. But at this time of year, it starts to get to me, all the messaging, mostly through music, about a newborn baby boy. The most overproduced baby's birthday party in history is such a jarring contrast to our poor forgotten baby's approaching birthday. Some of the songs could almost be love songs between a bereaved parent and a child, but invariably joy is mentioned and the effect is lost. As usual we will go away somewhere peaceful for his birthday in early January, to be together as a family, alone with our grief and our love.

One of the many ways we cope with heightened grief at this time of year is to wait until Christmas eve to put up our tree. We used to put it up weeks before like normal people but after Toren died, it was difficult to throw ourselves into the festive spirit. We miss him every day, not just during special occasions but there are times when it's a bit more harsh, when I need to seek refuge from the tyranny of contrast. This year the decorations around town went up really early. We need our home to be a sanctuary as much as possible. Our daughter is young enough that she doesn't remember any different. She accepts that our tree goes up Christmas eve. Then it comes down new year's day. That's enough. I was dreading seeing his special ornaments again but it was ok. I didn't handle them though, just watched as they were put on the tree by his big sister and his Daddy.

I'm reminded how different this time of year is now, not just from what we did before, but from other people. We decorate a special tree, buy yellow flowers, visit the baby area of the cemetery, keep a candle lit, and find ways to channel this grief, such as donating to those in need. I can never say "turn a negative into a positive" because it's just a trite phrase that is worse than meaningless to me. I say worse because I find it offensive. There can never be anything positive about my son dying. I'm not going to sugarcoat it for anyone. A big difference at this time of year is that of course I'm not organizing a birthday party and inviting little friends, not making a cake, not finding out what the little boys of friends liked as birthday presents. Our home is not chaotic with that kind of activity. Sometimes I feel like I'm standing in a deep dark hole and when I look up, I can see parts of that other life from here.

One of the things I won't be doing again next year is watching the movie Love Actually. Shockingly, one of the characters makes a "dead baby" joke. There is a blog post languishing in my Drafts folder about how you cannot ever use those words together, dead and baby, unless you have one. In this case they were making a "joke", but in no situation is it appropriate unless spoken by the bereaved parent of a dead baby. There are some words and expressions that belong only to a specific community. Next year (and forever) I will also skip The Santa Clause 3 as it involves Mrs Claus being in labour - the laugh-a-minute, pregnant-women-are-SO-hilarious Hollywood version of labour of course. Really, the only Christmas movies I need are How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol ("Scrooge", 1951 with Alastair Sim). And also my favourite Christmas carol, Fairytale of New York by the Pogues.

We attended a memorial service a few weeks ago which is put on every year free of charge by a local funeral home. It's nice to have something for families in grief at this time of year. We listened to some music and readings, and then walked out into some gardens to place an ornament containing memory seeds onto one of the trees. In the spring they will be planted and we'll be able to pay them a visit. We bumped into some friends there which was both lovely and horrible. I wish none of us had to be there. After the service they served hot chocolate and cookies. It was really a nice event, and yet I can't help thinking that there is such a huge difference between a memorial service put on for the bereaved by an organization, and one put on by bereaved parents themselves (which I have also attended). Some of it just didn't work for me as the mother of a baby who died at birth. But this is very often my context now. I mentally finish many, many sentences (mine and other people's) with "...unless your child died at birth."

Anyway, Christmas is over now. Just need to face a new year, and his 3rd birthday, without him.

Tree ornament on Granville Island

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your lovely article. So sorry you lost your little boy Toren, the worst thing a parent can ever experience. Our documentary. Still Loved, looks at how families survive the loss of a baby. Something others don't really understand. We hope it helps to bring a greater awareness in the future. To find out more visit our website here: Much love to you, Debbie