Keeping Their Memory Alive: Mikayla and Chase’s Stockings


DSC_0383-1We are coming up on the fifth Christmas since we lost our daughter Mikayla and the fourth since we lost our son Chase.  Newly bereaved parents have expressed how difficult the holidays can be for them, but even several years out from my loss there is always this sense of wonder when I watch my two living children enjoying the gifts and blessings of the Christmas season as I let my thoughts wander to what it would be like if all four of my children were here on earth with us. I remember that first Christmas all to well, it was so difficult to find joy amongst the grief.

I did find something that gave me hope though, something that gave me purpose…we called it Mikayla’s Stocking.  The last several years, of course, it was Mikayla and Chase’s Stockings, and we hope to do a version of it year as well.  This idea helped us  immensely during the holidays and I am sharing it now in hopes that if you are a bereaved parent yourself, it might spark some ideas of how you could do something in memory of your baby.  If you aren’t a bereaved parent, but know someone who is, I hope this will encourage you to reach out to that family during this holiday season.  See the bottom of this post for other resources that may help.

The thought of not having a stocking for Mikayla to hang with the rest of our family stockings was heartbreaking.  We could not stand the thought of that stocking hanging there empty on Christmas day…so we decided to fill it with good deeds and acts of kindness in Mikayla’s name that we spent time doing during the holiday season.  The idea was inspired by a fellow baby loss blogger, Mattie, in memory of her daugther Shyla.

It started by a letter that was sent out to our family and friends inviting them to join us in filling Mikayla’s Stocking with stories of good deeds and random acts of kindness they were inspired to do in her memory.  We then picked out a matching stocking with her name embroidered on it, and each day afterwards we thought of small things we could do to spread joy amongst our community and to help others days be a bit brighter.

Sure, there were lots of tears that first year…and sometimes there still is when I think about how very different our lives could be if Mikayla hadn’t died that year.  But keeping focused on doing things that would make her proud to call me mommy helped me survive those first holidays without her.

This was part of a blog post I wrote about her stocking that first year,

“Instead of hanging our four stockings on the mantle, with excitement for what little treasures might fill them on Christmas day,  I hang them with tears in my eyes.  Mikayla has a stocking, I cannot imagine it any other way.  I love seeing her stocking hung up with the rest of ours, our little family of four.  Instead of a doll dressed in pink, Mikayla’s stocking is adorned with an angel.  Instead of filling it with toys, I am filling it with letters from our friends and family that we will read on Christmas day to try to bring a little joy to that stocking that would otherwise be empty.”

We asked people to send us notes about what they did in these acts of kindness so that we could put them in the stocking.  We didn’t open them as we received them, we just tucked them inside her stocking.  On Christmas Day morning, we opened up all of the letters.  And that stocking was not empty on Christmas morning….it was overflowing with LOVE.

This project brought a lot of joy to our family during one of the saddest Christmas holidays we have ever celebrated.   We were absolutely awed at the letters and notes that were sent to us to fill her stocking.   I remember going to the mail box and each new envelope labeled with “Mikayla’s Stocking” filled me with such joy….someone remembered, someone cared.  For me, that’s all I really wanted for Christmas that year.  And if by trying to keep the spirit of my daughter alive, it helped brighten the spirit of even one person, I knew it was worth it.  I guess it’s how I grieve.  It helps me to know her short life had a purpose and that it continues to impact others.

It’s now been several years and I’ll admit I feel a lot less sad about the approaching holidays this year.  We have been so blessed this year, but I do still find myself wondering what it would be like with four little kids running around our house.  I don’t let my mind linger there for long though.  Instead I find myself planning how we are going to honor Mikayla and Chase this holiday season.

 

DSC_0152

DSC_0156Below are examples of our Letter from the first Christmas and also the one we sent the second year.  Please feel free to use these to draft your own letter if you’d like to invite your family and friends to fill your child’s stocking this Christmas.  If you do your own Angel Stockings, we’d love to hear your stories!

 

{YEAR ONE LETTER}

Dear Family & Friends,

First, let me thank you all for your love, support and prayers over the six months.  Thank you for sharing in the excitement of our second pregnancy and in the sorrow of our loss. Today is Nov 14.  Tomorrow will be 5 months since we said good-bye to Mikayla. We know each one of you felt our pain during the loss of Mikayla. We celebrate her life and, like a stone tossed into a pond, hope to see some of the far reaching ripples of the good things her life can bring.

As the holidays are approaching, we are excited to spend time with family and friends and watching the excitement in Jonathan’s eyes just overwhelms our hearts sometimes. But, we still feel the need to remember our daughter, Mikayla, this Christmas. Christmas is our favorite time of year and we have been searching for a way to keep it that way, even in the midst of our pain.  I found this wonderful idea from another mom whose little girl is in Heaven and was really inspired to do the same thing she did the first Christmas without her baby.

We have a stocking monogrammed with Mikayla’s name that matches the rest of our family stockings, but really don’t want to see it hang empty, so we have decided to enlist all of you to help us.  All that we ask is that sometime between now and Christmas, do something nice for someone, no matter how small or large. It doesn’t have to involve money–just commit a random act of kindness. When you do it, think of Mikayla and dedicate that act her. You can even leave a note saying, “This random act of kindness was done in memory of Mikayla Grace”, but you don’t have to. 

Please write down your act of kindness and send it to us and put “Mikayla’s Stocking” in the subject line or slip a note into your Christmas cards to us. I won’t read it. I will print it out the emails and put it in her stocking. Then, on Christmas morning, we will open up all the notes and read them. 

Feel free to share this request with your other friends and family.  Even if only a few of you do this, we will have a really beautiful thing to share on Christmas in our sweet baby’s memory and someone else (the recipient of your kindness) will benefit by a true example of the spirit of Christmas. I will pray that all of us will be struck by inspiration, that something will come to each of us, some kindness that we can share of ourselves, in Mikayla’s name and in her memory, to benefit someone else.   For idea’s and inspiration for random acts of kindness, visit http://www.missfoundation.org/kindness/ideas.html 

Thank you so much for your participation and your continued love and support,

Melissa, Mike, and Jonathan

 

{YEAR TWO LETTER}

Dear Family & Friends,

We are so, so thankful for our family and friends who have supported us over this last year and wanted to invite you all to do some random acts of kindness this Holiday season!  Last Christmas we invited many of our family and friends to participate with us in filling Mikayla’s Stocking with Random Acts of Kindness done in her memory, and we have decided to do something similar this year as well. It was such a wonderful experience for us and those that participated, helping us focus on the blessings we do have and the kindness of others.  

As most of you know, 2011 started out as the year of {HOPE} as we discovered we were expecting our third child. Unfortunately at a routine ultrasound on April 22, 2011 we were told that our baby had no heartbeat. While we were only 10 weeks along in this third pregnancy, we had already fallen in love with this child and our hearts were broken to know that he had already joined his sister Mikayla in Heaven. We felt our lives open to a whole different kind of loss, because while we felt this life was already our child, there simply wasn’t enough time to convince others how special this baby was or to share our hopes and dreams of this child with them. A few weeks after we lost him, we got the genetic results back that our baby was a little boy who died from Trisomy 22. We have named him Chase Gabriel, and while we never got to hold him in our arms he still remains within our hearts forever.

Last year if you’d told us that we’d be hanging up yet another stocking in memory of one of our children we wouldn’t have believed it. We know this too will be a difficult holiday without our two children, and we are searching for ways to bring joy to our lives and the lives of others again this year. We celebrate the life of both Mikayla and Chase, and hope we are able to continue to find ways in which the lives of others can be touched because of their brief lives touching ours. 

This year, we will be filling stockings again and if you’d like to participate, we ask that the acts of kindness are done with both Mikayla and Chase in mind. Sometime between now and Christmas, do something nice for someone, no matter how small or large. It doesn’t have to involve money–just commit a random act of kindness. When you do it, think of our children and dedicate that act to them. You can even leave a note saying, “This random act of kindness was done in memory of Mikayla Grace and Chase Gabriel”, but you don’t have to.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take your neighbor, friend, coworker some cookies
  • Make someone a meal
  • Compliment someone
  • Shovel someone’s driveway or sidewalk
  • Let someone cut in front of you in line at the store
  • Buy someone a cup of coffee
  • Donate money to any charity
  • Donate toys to the Salvation Army
  • Adopt a family with a one year old or a baby (Mikayla would have been 1 1/2 this year and Chase was due to arrive in November)
  • Buy someone who is hungry lunch
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter serving dinner
  • Volunteer anywhere

 There are so many ways to spread kindness and cheer this holiday season check out this website for more ideas: http://www.missfoundation.org/kindness/ideas.html

Please write down your act of kindness and send it to us by mail (email me at mikaylasgrace@gmail.com if you need my address) or email and put “Mikayla and Chase’s Stockings” in the subject line or slip a note into your Christmas cards to us. We won’t read it. We will print out the emails and put them in the stockings. Then, on Christmas morning, we will open up all the notes and read them.

Feel free to share this request with your other friends and family. Even if only a few of you do this, we will have a really beautiful thing to share on Christmas in memory of Mikayla and Chase and someone else (the recipient of your kindness) will benefit by a true example of the spirit of Christmas. I will pray that all of us will be struck by inspiration, that something will come to each of us, some kindness that we can share of ourselves, in Mikayla and Chase’s names, to benefit someone else.

Mikayla and Chase are on our minds daily and now to see them, instead of opening our eyes, we must open our hearts. We do believe that they both came into our lives to bring us the gifts we needed to continue touching lives through sharing our experience with others. They have taught us about love and about giving. They taught us all of that, and then they left. Through us, and through you, their gifts will live on through the lives of others touched by the mission of Mikayla’s Grace and our acts of kindness for many years to come.

Thank you so much for your continued love and support,

Melissa, Mike, and Jonathan

And our two little angels watching over us in Heaven, Mikayla & Chase

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“No act of kindness, 

no matter how small, 

is ever wasted.”

 Aesop

There are a couple of other good resources for how to survive the holidays after losing a baby.  These blog posts may be helpful for family and friends of bereaved parents to read as well.  We wish all of our supporters of Mikayla’s Grace a peaceful holiday season.

http://facesofloss.com/real-advice/surviving-the-holidays

http://www.roseandherlily.com/2012/11/remembering-your-baby-at-christmas.html

If you are a bereaved parent and have other ideas how you honor the memory of your baby(ies) please share them in a comment to this post.

 

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