I’m facing a difficult family Christmas juggling baby joy and heartache

Dear Coleen

I have a very tricky Christmas coming up. It should be wonderful, as my son and his wife have a new baby girl and she’s our first grandchild.

My husband and I are absolutely thrilled about it, but I also feel quite guilty for looking forward to spending time with the baby, as my daughter has had a couple of miscarriages this year, which hit her hard.

She and her husband have been struggling to start a family for some time. All of us will be together for a few nights at our house over the holidays and I’m not sure how to handle it.

I’m imagining my daughter will be extremely sensitive and she’ll find the situation difficult – she hasn’t seen or spoken to my son very much since their baby was born in September.

But, my son and his wife should be allowed to be happy about their new daughter and enjoy this special time, and so should we. Have you any advice on how I can handle this? I’m worried about saying or doing the wrong thing and spoiling Christmas for everyone.

Coleen says

Of course you must have a great Christmas with your granddaughter and you must be happy for your son and his wife.

That doesn’t mean you’re not sensitive to what your daughter is going through. Life is very unfair sometimes and there will be moments when it will be hard for her. If I were you, I’d ask her how she’s feeling about Christmas – if she thinks it’ll be hard for her and if there’s anything you can do to make it easier. She’ll appreciate you’re thinking about her.

My sister Bernie lost a baby when I was pregnant with my daughter Ciara and was very aware of her loss. In fact, I felt terrible guilt whenever I saw Bernie and tried not to talk about my pregnancy. One day I told her how I felt and she was horrified, stressing that she was thrilled to be an auntie again and was happy for me.

I remember her saying, “I don’t resent you for having a baby because I’ve lost mine. I want my baby and I’m grieving for her”. I was really struck by what she said and it definitely helped us all to move on and be OK with it.

So tell your daughter how you’re feeling and, although you’re looking forward to having the baby at Christmas, you want her to feel comfortable.

As with Bernie, your daughter’s loss can’t be changed by what other people do or say. She has to come to terms with it in her own time.

Yes, be mindful, but also remember it might actually be healing for your daughter to spend time with the baby. Bernie was the first person to hold Ciara when she was born.

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