Rob and Tammy’s lives forever changed one fateful October morning in 2015. They found that their newborn baby girl Mara had died in the morning hours from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Just ten short days ago was one of the happiest of the couple’s lives. Now that happiness was replaced by a gut wrenching terror, and grief that no parent should ever endure.
As the days and weeks melded into each other, Rob and Tammy grappled with their deep anguish, and in the future loomed Christmas.
“I didn’t want anything to do with Christmas,” says Tammy. “I didn’t feel happy or joyous, all the magic of the season was gone. I just wanted to be quiet in my grief with Rob. I had no energy for anything. I couldn’t be social, could not be anywhere close to babies or pregnant women and small talk was impossible. I knew everyone just felt so helpless and didn’t know what to do for us.”
Nothing could take away their immense sadness and grief, and Tammy ached to be in a place where she could acknowledge her grief openly without putting on her “happy face”. She had seen an advertisement for a unique service called “Blue Christmas” – a service aimed at those suffering with grief and sorrow during this normally joyous season. Rob was keen to attend and the two took in the service.
“I was nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect,” says Tammy. “We wanted to do something that acknowledged Christmas without expecting us to be happy and energetic. At the service I felt we were welcomed and held, in our broken state. That no one there expected anything of us. I felt that everyone was going through their own tough times and could empathize and hold space for us without trying to fix anything. It was perfect. Gentle. Solemn. The music was soft. And the Minister offered encouraging words and then later an opportunity to collectively and publicly share our heartache.”
Reverend Beth Hayward of Canadian Memorial United Church has seen a rise in attendance of Blue Christmas in the last five years. An expert in grief and healing, Hayward believes strongly in these types of public services to acknowledge grief in our lives. “We put on Blue Christmas as there is an immense loneliness at this time of the year for many people. While Christmas acknowledges the joys of the season it isn’t always a safe place to be when one is deeply grieving or struggling. We see so many people come, sit and just admit their suffering and we offer a safe place for them to do so.”
It’s been a year of remembering Mara for Rob and Tammy. They have grieved and even supported others that have sadly walked their journey of losing a child. Blue Christmas also connected them with a new friends and a church community they didn’t have before. The couple is now expecting a new baby and are cautiously optimistic that all will go well…but know sometimes life has other plans. They will be attending Blue Christmas again this year.
Blue Christmas takes place at Canadian Memorial United Church on Wednesday December 21st at 7:30pm. For more information about the service contact email@example.com or call 604-731-3101.
What: Blue Christmas Service
When: Wednesday December 21 at 7:30pm
Where: Canadian Memorial Church – 1806 West 15th (at Burrard), Vancouver.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 604-731-3101