The Christmas after we lost our daughter Arla was meant to be a happy time for us. I had thought about it a great deal while I was pregnant – she was going to be nine months old. I could picture her sitting up, giggling and gurgling, playing with her cousins, maybe even with a little Christmas hat sitting atop her head.
And then, the unforeseen happened. We lost our beautiful Arla at 38 weeks. After we lost her in March, we had found the courage to try again, and we were fortunate to fall pregnant just before Christmas. Whilst still grieving, we were excited to be approaching the holiday season expecting again, and excited to share this news with our family on Christmas day.
Instead, Christmas day ended up being different to how we’d imagined. Not only were we missing Arla, but I had begun to miscarry a week before Christmas, which continued over Christmas day, Boxing day, and eventually it was confirmed: I was no longer pregnant.
RELATED: 7 Tips For Coping With A Miscarriage
The following Christmas felt just as complex as the first. Full of excitement and hope, layered with the usual happiness and joy at the time of year, but an omnipresent absence lurking in our hearts. It was a joyful time, as we could rest and be close to our families, and see the joy in our nieces and nephews faces. However, there was a part of us that wished she was enjoying the magic with them. And with my two subsequent miscarriages after Arla, her absence grew more prominent.
After three Christmases passed, we were hopeful again. We were newly pregnant for the fourth time with our son, terrified and battle weary, but believing that maybe this time we would bring this child home. Christmas was full of plans and dreams again.
The more we shared and honoured Arla’s life through vulnerability, openness and mindfulness, the pressure of the holiday season began to lift. From the Christmases we experienced through loss, we discovered a few key things that brought us peace during this time:
1. Being around those you love and trust
By surrounding ourselves with our families and loved ones, we found deep comfort in being with people we loved during this time. At times, we had to explain to family we couldn’t do certain things, or had to say no, especially during the miscarriage. Sometimes, our time had to be limited around children, but we felt a pull to be around the people we love and trust the most, including the little ones. Our families played a very important grounding role for us during this time, and we would constantly update them on what we could and couldn’t do. We are forever grateful for their support.
2. Change of scenery
What’s more, removing ourselves from our home, albeit our safe place, meant that the triggers of home weren’t present in a neutral environment. Being in a new space where we hadn’t experienced grief and deep sadness, where we could engage with our environment and be wholly present in the moment, was helpful. New spaces acted as a ‘blank canvas’ for our summer holidays, and therefore we could paint a different picture for the future.
3. Creating rituals
Finding a ritual that allowed us to honour Arla’s memory during the busiest time of the year brought us peace and a connectedness with her. A special Christmas tradition we’ve continued to honour has been the simple act of hanging a Christmas ornament that was gifted to us in the year Arla died, and it still goes on the tree every year. It is the last to be hung, and every year that goes by, it’s presence on the tree feels more significant. Some may choose to have a candle burning, and others prefer to hold a toast around the dinner table: a simple reminder of who is missing is often important.
Christmas can amplify the feelings around loss, and it is a time where kindness for self is paramount. Sitting with the emotions you might be experiencing, the grief that might be enveloping, and being honest with those who love you about what you can and can’t do is sometimes all you can do
Ami Summers is a leadership consultant, an author, and a mother. In 2013, after what had been a healthy and uneventful pregnancy, Ami and her husband Dave lost their daughter Arla at 38 weeks. In her grief, Ami looked for guidance. She yearned for practical resources as she and Dave stumbled through — a gentle guide, a beacon in the darkness to help shepherd her. She could not find them. So, when the time was right, she set out to create a resource herself. Drawing on her experience as a mother and as a leadership consultant, and collaborating with a working group of mothers and therapists, Ami wrote Heart Space.