To the families and friends of newly bereaved parents,

For more than 106,000 bereaved parents, this Christmas will be the first they've experienced since the loss of their pregnancy or the death of their beloved baby.

It'll likely be a time of heightened emotions. Everything hurts. Or, just as often, numbness has taken over, leaving parents unable to act or respond in a predictable way.

As the people closest to them, you've probably experienced many of these ups and downs already.

You might be wondering how long these acute feelings will last. And you might be wondering how they're going to impact on Christmas this year.

When I think about my first Christmas without my baby, it included tears as well as some awkward moments where people didn't know how to cope with me talking openly about my pregnancy. With the benefit of a few more years, I can understand why it made people uncomfortable, but in the midst of my grief this was the only way I knew to include the baby I was missing in our family celebrations.

So today, I'm asking you, as loving friends and family members, to have a conversation with the bereaved parents in your life about how they would like their baby acknowledged or remembered.

A gesture to let your friend or family member know that you're thinking of them and remembering their baby at this time of year is an important way you to show your love and support.

But it's important to let parents take the lead on what they'd like this gesture to be.

Other bereaved parents have chosen to:

  • place a Christmas decoration on the tree when others open their gifts
  • light a candle at the dinner table
  • say their baby's name during Grace or other family rituals
  • to nominate a dish that can be cooked each year in acknowledgement of that baby
  • to donate to a chosen charity in memory of their baby
  • leave an empty chair at the table to symbolise that their baby is missing.

Of course for some newly bereaved parents, joining in Christmas celebrations in any way is an unrealistic expectation. The best gift you can give to those parents is your understanding that they won't be with you this year and to accept their regrets graciously.

There will also be bereaved parents who hold their grief very privately and who won't want any acknowledgement. That doesn't mean you still shouldn't ask, it's just important to respect their wishes at that time. The very fact that you asked will be meaningful.

Finally, know that the tears that are cried when a bereaved parent hears their baby's name are not only tears of sadness. Every bereaved parent would prefer to hear their baby's name and cry than to never hear their baby's name spoken at all.

I wish everyone in the Sands family a safe and peaceful Christmas doing what feels right for them.