Episode 13 - Coping with Hope through the Holidays with Ashley Opliger


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In this special episode, Ashley Opliger shares a heartfelt message and prayer for mothers who are grieving during the holidays. This Christmas season was supposed to be a time of joy and making memories with your baby, but now is filled with overwhelming sadness and pain.


Ashley shares practical ideas for "coping with hope" through the holidays when grief is magnified and our hearts miss our babies in Heaven more than we can stand. With a focus on grace and communication, Ashley gives advice on how to navigate holiday gatherings and relationships with friends and family. This hope-filled episode will leave you celebrating the reason for the season—Jesus, the baby born in a manger who gives us hope to see our babies in Heaven one day.


In this episode, Ashley discusses:

  • How to survive the holiday/winter season

  • Giving yourself and others grace to strengthen your relationships

  • Protecting your heart and putting up boundaries

  • Why it's okay to say "no" or do things differently this year (and why you shouldn't feel guilty about it)

  • Creating space to grieve

  • How to set up our families for success to support and love us well

  • Traditions and ways to honor your baby in Heaven for Christmas

  • Allowing yourself to "hold both" and feel both happiness and sorrow

  • Scripture and Christmas songs that bring hope in this season

Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!



Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)

  1. Ashley talked about setting up our families and gatherings for success by communicating expectations in advance. What conversations do you need to have before the holidays? How can you communicate your feelings with love and grace so that you can be better supported and also strengthen your relationships with your family/friends?

  2. In this episode, Ashley shared some ideas on how to honor your baby in Heaven and have special traditions as a family to remember them during the holidays. What traditions do you have that bring healing? What new ideas can you implement this year?

  3. The reason for the season is Jesus. How does His birth in a manger give you hope for seeing your babies again? How can you choose to focus on His birth and celebrate His life this Christmas season?

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MEET OUR HOST


Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,065 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.


Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.


Connect with Ashley:

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www.ashleyopliger.com


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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT


Episode 13: Grieving with Hope During the Holidays


Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure, and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.


I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain, and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.


Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.


Ashley Opliger: [00:01:26] Hello, sweet moms. Today is December 1st, and as we prepare our hearts for the Advent season and for Christmas coming up here in just 25 days, I know that this season is so incredibly hard for you as you are grieving, especially if this is your first Christmas season after the loss of your baby.


I know that this season is nothing like what you anticipated or expected, or hoped for. And so many milestones that you had hoped to enjoy and celebrate with your baby on earth, all of those expectations have now turned into disappointments, and a season that is supposed to be happy and joy-filled, and traditions and memories are now filled with incredible pain because of the void of your baby.


And I know that grief can be so magnified during this time, and we ache all the more for our babies in Heaven and long for the day that we will see them again. I know that the holidays can be some of the very hardest days as part of your grief journey. Even if it's been several years or even decades after you've lost a baby, you'll never, ever, as culture likes to say, get over or move past your loss.


Your baby is your baby forever, and you are going to miss your baby, like I do for Bridget, until your last breath on earth, until you get to see them again in Heaven. And so today, I just want to spend some time preparing our hearts for this season and give you some ways to cope with hope.


The world likes to offer us many ideas of what coping looks like. And there are definitely ways that we can cope with God in healthy ways that are going to bring about healing. And there are, obviously, worldly ways that we can cope with pain and our suffering that will turn us away from God and lead us only to further grief and further pain.


And so I just want to encourage you, first of all, to know that it's okay that this is a hard season. It's okay to embrace that this is going to be hard and that this season is not going to look like what you had expected or hoped. I also want to acknowledge that if you're anything like me, the wintertime is just a hard time for me when I'm grieving, not only because of the holidays but because of the winter blues that I suffer from.


The weather is so cold, you're stuck indoors, people aren't out, and about doing things outside or going to as many places, there aren't as many activities going on in the wintertime. Also, the fact that it gets dark at 4:30 or 5:00 and there are not as many daylight hours that can really impact your grief as well and cause you to slip further into depression and sadness.


All of the trees, the leaves have fallen. The grass is dead. The plants, the flowers, there's nothing in bloom. And I know for me, as I am making it through the holidays and getting to spring, I always long for spring, for the nice warm weather to return, for flowers to start blooming, for leaves to start budding on trees and just start seeing sunlight and have longer days. I always feel such a relief in my soul when the springtime comes.


And so, let's talk about ways to not only survive the holidays but to survive this winter season that we find ourselves in right now; I would like to start us with a prayer.


Dear God, I come before You today; it’s December 1st. We're starting this 25-day countdown toward Christmas. And that countdown as a child was always such a special and magical time of being so excited for celebrating Your birth and having time to relish in family traditions, and spend time with family, and celebrate the wonderful gift of the Messiah being born into the world.


However, when we are grieving, God, this season can feel anything but joyous. Our hearts are mourning our precious babies in Heaven, and we miss them so badly. Lord, we believe that they are alive in Heaven with You, but here we are on this weary world, this broken earth, and we are hurting so badly.


We miss them. We want them to be in our arms. We wish we were putting them in a little onesie that says, “Baby's First Christmas.” We wish we were buying their first presents and getting to see them open their first presents and taking the family pictures for our Christmas cards, holding our baby in our arms.


And all of these moments feel like they’ve stolen from us, God. And I just want You to come into our pain, to come into this suffering that we find ourselves in this place on earth, between Your Son coming to earth as a baby, to die for our sins and being raised from the grave; His First Coming has come and passed.


But we are longing and awaiting the day of His Second Coming when He will make all things new and all things right. And He will put an end to death and suffering. There will be no more tears, all of our tears that You've been collecting in Your bottle for each of us, Lord, and You know the tears we've cried for our babies, God, that one day You will wipe away all of those tears and we will spend forever with them in Heaven with You.


But God, as we are grieving in this season, I just pray that You would come close like a friend comes close. As our Savior, give us the peace that surpasses all understanding that only You can give us.


God, I pray that during this holiday season, as we navigate all of these milestones and all of these traditions and family gatherings and all of these triggers that are going to come in and wreak panic and anxiety and sadness to our hearts, that You would hold us through this season, that You would have Your arm around us, that You would hold our hand through this season, and when we are too weak to walk with You, that You would pick us up and carry us.

God, we need You in this season. We praise You for who You are and what You have done. We thank You for sending Your Son to this earth as our Savior that You have given us the glorious hope to see our babies again.


God, in this season, please be near to us. Be Emmanuel. God is with us, the God that took on human flesh for us, Lord. Be near to us. Remind us of the hope. Give us joy and peace in this season that doesn't even make sense for the grief that we're going through. Lord, and walk us through every step of the way. We love you so much. It's in Your Name we pray. Amen.


Ashley Opliger: [00:08:38] So moms, what I'm going to share with you on this podcast episode comes from—we just had two support groups in November. We have an online support group that meets every month and then an in-person support group that meets every month at our headquarters in Kechi, Kansas. And the topic for both of those support groups was “Grieving through the Holidays.”


I shared this message, and as a group, we discussed what about the holiday season was going to be hard. We talked about some very practical ideas on surviving these holidays. And so what I'm going to be sharing today on this podcast is really a summary of everything that we talked about as a group.


Many of these ideas are my own, but also some of these ideas were shared in the groups from other moms who are grieving their babies and walking through this side by side with you and with me.


The first thing we talked about was grace, giving yourself and others grace.

Let's first talk about yourself. It is okay to say no. It is okay to protect your heart and put boundaries up around this season. Especially if this is your first Christmas season after losing a baby, it’s completely understandable and reasonable that you do not partake in every single activity and tradition that you used to.


It's okay if you don't feel like putting a Christmas tree up. It’s okay if you don't feel like decorating your house as you used to or hosting a large gathering of people, or even going to every gathering that you're invited to. First of all, it's okay to say no.


It's also okay to keep it simple and easy and to put up some boundaries around what you do and when you do things. Please do not put unrealistic expectations on yourself and do not feel guilty for not being more joyous or wanting to participate in everything that you used to.


I know as women, it's especially hard for us to say no. We want to make other people happy. We want to try to do the things that we used to do and be with our families. And we want to decorate our homes and do all of these things, but maybe our heart and soul are just not ready for that right now. And that's okay.


It's also okay to change your plans. If you used to host, maybe you ask someone else to host. Or if you're going to host, maybe you keep things simple. And instead of making all of the food, maybe you get take-out this year. Maybe you just get paper plates, and you don't have to worry about all of the dishes and all of the things.


I know also as women, it's easy for us to feel guilty about doing less or saying no, kind of goes against our nature as women. But this year, please hear me say: Give yourself grace. It's okay that you give yourself permission to grieve, and you set aside time to reflect and mourn. It's important to create space for grieving.


The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be very overwhelming when you're grieving. And if you have a full schedule of activities and gatherings, Christmas parties, it can feel overwhelming, and you may not have the time to really sit and feel your emotions and feel your grief.


And as hard as it is to say, it is so important to feel everything that you're feeling and to give yourself time to cry and to mourn, and to reflect on your baby's life. And so please give yourself grace in your schedule and with your family members to understand that you do need that time to grieve and that you may have to change your schedule this year.

Also, when you're going to gatherings, other family members that are hosting, or you're going to parties that you're invited to, it's okay to leave early. It's okay also to step outside of the room if you need to cry or feel what you're feeling.


Some of the moms in our support group talked about how they have family members, sisters, sister-in-laws that have recently had babies, and that's going to be really hard for them to step into a gathering where there's an infant celebrating their very first Christmas.

It's not that they're not happy for their sister or for their family member. It's just that their happiness and those milestones only remind them of their sadness and of their loss of their baby.


And then, on top of that, the moms shared with me that they feel guilty and sad that they can't be present for their sister in the way that they wanted to. They wanted to be joyous and enjoy this first Christmas with their little niece or nephew. And this is really hard on their relationship with their family member.


And so it's important to give yourself grace in these situations and to communicate with your family members all that you're feeling, and that you might need some space and time to step outside and to cry.


As hard as it is to say this, unfortunately, not everyone in your family will appropriately or sensitively respond to your grief and your baby in the way that you would want them to. You might need to be prepared for some awkward conversations, for people to not know exactly how to talk about your baby. And they may even avoid talking about your baby altogether, which is extremely painful and insensitive, and they really do not mean it to be hurtful, but they a lot of times just don't know what to say, and they don't know how to acknowledge your grief.


And so we're going to talk about communication. I know that in a perfect world, well, first of all, in a perfect world, we wouldn't be experiencing the loss of our babies. But in a world where people did know how to respond to grief, they would be the ones coming to us and asking us, “What do you need? What can I do to help you through your grief? What can I do to support you through these holidays?”


But unfortunately, so many people don't ask those questions and don't know what to do or don't look up ways on websites on, “How can I care for a family member who's grieving,” so they may not know what to do.


But if you feel comfortable in sharing your heart and your feelings with your family, consider sending them a text or having a phone call or even talking in person before the holidays, before your family events, and explaining that this is going to be hard for you and that you may not be able to stay the whole time. You may need your own space and time to grieve.


And if there are certain things that you want and you expect out of your family members, that you do want your baby to be mentioned, that you would like your family to have a stocking for your baby, that you would like a specific tradition or activity planned around your baby, having these expectations in the forefront, discussed in advance, will set your family up for success.


I know that sounds maybe like a weird phrase to say. But if the end goal is to have our relationships with our family members strengthened and for you to have as bearable of holidays as possible, where you feel as loved and supported as you possibly can.


We know that no one's going to be able to take away our grief during the holidays, that the grief is going to be present no matter what anyone does or says, but if we want for the holidays to go as smoothly as possible, for there not to be any tension or any hurt feelings that may happen because of expectations not being communicated or family members not being supportive, it's very important to have these conversations.


And it may feel like you don't feel like you should be the one to have to spell it out. And I agree with you. I don't think that we should have to be the ones. But because our culture is just so not prepared and not well trained in grief and how to respond to grief, I do think that it is going to be what's best for you and for your family if you can have these conversations.


And so if you want your baby's name mentioned in a prayer or an activity, or you want to have your family members all donate and put the donations into a stocking, or you want to buy gifts for an angel tree where you pick a child.


One of my friends, Casey, every year, she picks a little child on the angel tree that would be the same age as her son, Jack, who is in Heaven. So this year, she will be picking a seven-year-old boy, and then Casey and her family will be going and buying gifts for a seven-year-old boy. And that's part of their Christmas tradition.


And so if you have these ideas and ways that you want to honor your baby in Heaven, it's best to communicate these things in advance rather than going to the gathering or being there on Christmas and then having awkward silence and feeling like you're not supported, your baby's not acknowledged, your baby's not honored. That can be incredibly devastating and make a hard day even harder.


So we want to set your family up for success, to be able to support and love you the best that they can. And that's because we want you to feel loved and supported because this day is so hard anyway. And that's also going to help with the longevity and the strength of your relationships moving forward, to have communication, and to have grace for your family members.


So let's talk about some ways that you can honor your baby during the holiday season. We already talked about stockings. I share every year that we have a little stocking that we bought on Etsy.


We had it customized. It has Bridget's name on it, and the stocking is 10.5 inches, which was her birth length. And that was just really special that we had this little stocking up on the mantle for her. Both of our families also have their own stockings for her.


We actually don't put anything in the stocking, but some of the moms at our support group talked about things that they do to put in the stocking. Casey mentioned that her family always does a donation to Bridget’s Cradles.


It doesn't have to be to Bridget’s Cradles. It can be to an organization that was helpful to you in your grief journey or a local organization that helps other families that have experienced loss. Also, you could do an angel tree and give gifts to a children's home.


Another tradition that we do every year is when we take our fall family pictures, we always include Bridget's bear, which is actually from the organization Molly Bears. I'm sure many of you know about Molly Bears, but if you haven't. Please go to their website. They are a nonprofit organization. They make these special weighted bears to be weighted to your baby's birth weight, and they make the bear very personalized to you. Bridget’s bear has mint and lavender, which, those were her colors for her nursery, and now, for our organization, we use those colors. But her bear is just very symbolic for us.


So we take pictures with Bridget's bear. You could also take pictures with a memorial item or a framed picture of your baby, or maybe an ultrasound picture of your baby.


And then we include Bridget's name on our Christmas card every year. And some families that I know like to do that and other families don't. I always like to say here, when I mention these ideas, it can feel like it's supposed to be a checklist, like, “In order to be a good bereaved mother, I need to do all of these things.”


Please hear me say: That is not the case. You do not have to do all of these things, and you do not have to do the things that I do. What's important is that you incorporate the traditions and memorial ideas that are going to be healing for you and your family, that is going to help you grieve with hope during the season.


So please just take away the ideas that will be helpful to you and leave the rest, and also come up with your own ideas. All of these ideas, by the way, are listed on our website, bridgetscradles.com, and I have pictures of many of these ideas that I'm mentioning.


And with the Christmas cards, the reason we like to have her name on the card even seven years later is because we want people to know that Bridget is a part of our eternal family, that we consider her our child, our first child, our only daughter, and we look forward to the day that we'll see her again in Heaven. And until that day, she's always going to have her name on our cards.


Another thing is that we have ornaments for Bridget with her name. We have some ornaments that have pictures of her, and that's just really special being able to hang those ornaments year after year.


We also like to decorate a small Christmas tree and put it on her grave. We use a real tree. There's a local grocery store; if you're here local to Wichita, Kansas, I'm talking about Dillons. It's a Kroger store. And this time of year, they have them outside in the front of the building, these little, what they call “table top” Christmas trees.


And we—I'm talking about Casey and I—because Jack and Bridget are buried next to each other at the cemetery, we like to decorate them with solar-powered Christmas lights.


And the solar-powered Christmas lights you can find on Amazon and different websites, but there's a little stake in the ground that collects the rays throughout the day. And then at nighttime, it knows when it's dark, and the lights turn on. And it's just so special visiting the cemetery at night and seeing the little twinkling lights.


We put little ornaments on there, and then we stake the tree stand into the ground with garden stakes. And those trees, we do have to go and bring water. I just have bottled water in my car. And every time I would visit her during the Christmas season, I would water the tree. And that's something that we tried to do every year.


But you could also use a real tree like that and have it at your house if your baby's not buried at a cemetery. You could do one in your front yard or in a little garden area at your home. You could also have a real tree or artificial tree in your home in a special place and decorate that tree for your baby and have your special ornaments on that tree.


If you have living children, you could also have them decorate some ornaments for your baby in Heaven and make that a tradition with your family to decorate that tree together.

Also, if your baby has a grave, you can decorate your baby's grave with poinsettias or other decorations. And if you have a vase, you can fill it with some Christmas florals and items that you can find at Hobby Lobby that will stick into the ground. I've seen many moms have some beautiful Christmas decorations.


One Christmas, my mom made a grave blanket, which I had never heard of a grave blanket before, but a grave blanket is an evergreen arrangement that covers the ground above a grave and usually, you put those on around Thanksgiving. And they can be real evergreen foliage with, a lot of times you'll see like poinsettias or red berries on them, and my mom actually made it with artificial greenery. So that's another option as well.

A few other traditions that you can think about would be to write a letter to your baby or write in a Christmas card to your baby and collect those through the years so that you can read and have a journal every Christmas.


And then a family tradition that my family has had since I was a child is to have a birthday cake for Jesus. And the reason I love this tradition is because it keeps the focus on the reason for the season, which is Jesus.


I won't go into everything with Santa and all of the other traditions of Christmas. There's nothing wrong with Santa, wrong with giving each other presents and all of these things. But in our house, we really try to keep the focus on our Savior's birth and on the fact that Jesus came as a baby to take on our sin, and that because of Him, we have the hope to be in Heaven forever, and we have been reconciled with God, the Father.


And so I just love having a birthday cake. And singing Happy Birthday to Jesus keeps us focused on why we're celebrating Christmas and the hope that we have through His birth. And really, the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day is the reason that we have hope, we can grieve with hope.


Our Savior entered the world as a baby, born of the Virgin Mary in a manger. He came down as a human to save us. He is our hope. He is the one that defeated death, and He promises us eternity in Heaven with Him and our babies.


And so as hard as the Christmas season is to be grieving in the midst of a season that's supposed to be filled with joy, we do have a blessed hope that because of Jesus's earthly life coming down as a baby, I like to say that hope was born on Christmas and was secured on Easter Day when He proved that He was who He said He was and He rose from the grave three days after dying on the cross.


I would like to read Romans 15:13 to you. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”


Titus 3:3-7, “At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God, our Savior, appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.


That is the reason Jesus came, the reason we celebrate Christmas. And I have two songs that I love so dearly during the Christmas season. One of them is O Holy Night. There's a line in O Holy Night that says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,” and I think we can all understand.


This world is so weary. We are living in a broken, sin-filled world that is filled with disease and death and pain and sorrow, and this world is aching and longing for Jesus' return. We cannot wait for that day.


I love that the verse says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” Our weary hearts, our hearts that are grieving, can rejoice because we have the thrill of hope. It says,

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices. O night divine! O night when Christ was born.


I love that song because, as we know, the world is in sin, and the world is broken. And God's good and perfect plan for this earth was not that babies would die in the womb and that babies would die after they were born. That is not the way that God intended for this earth that He created.


And it's because of Adam and Eve in the Garden that the world is so broken, and we are grieving. So as we await the glorious day when Jesus comes back, we can have this thrill of hope, knowing that we can rejoice even in the middle of our sadness.


There's a phrase that my counselor, after the loss of Bridget, used one day...she said to me, “You know, Ashley, it's okay to hold both.” And then she said, “to hold both this feeling and this feeling,” and they were contradictory feelings at the time of what I was describing in the situation. I think it was something along the lines of, “It's okay to have gratitude and to be grieving, to feel joy and to feel sorrow.”


And it may seem like those two feelings can't co-exist, but they can. You may have fun with your family. You may want to go to gatherings and be around your family and have a good time and laugh. And at the same time, you're grieving. And first of all, know that's completely normal and okay to feel sorrow and to feel happiness at the same time, and to let yourself feel both feelings.


I know so many moms tell me that they are so afraid to smile again, and to laugh again after the loss of their baby because they fear that someone else, a family member or friend, or the world, in general, will perceive that they are no longer missing their baby or that they've moved on or they're not grieving anymore, which is so far from the truth.

And it can be really hard to open yourself up and let yourself have those feelings of momentary joy that come to you in the middle of your grief. I just want to encourage you, it's okay to let your guard down a little bit and to smile and to laugh and to feel those feelings, but likewise, it's okay to break down and cry.


It's okay to sit there on Christmas morning when you're opening presents and cry and say your baby's name and talk about how you're feeling. This is all okay. Just like my counselor told me, it's okay to hold both; I want to give you permission to hold both.

And you don't need to feel guilty for feeling sad and feeling that you're a burden and you're going to be ruining the party because you don't feel joyous. Don't feel guilty. You can feel that way.


Likewise, if you are feeling happy and are smiling, don't feel guilty that you're not missing your baby or that people will perceive you to not be missing your baby or care about your baby. That's so far from the truth. And that laughter is such a nice, welcome break from the intense, deep, dark emotions of grief. So let yourself feel that. Let yourself laugh, and know that it's okay to hold both of those feelings.


Ashley Opliger: [00:31:48] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about some other hope-filled resources our ministry provides to grieving families.


On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find many resources on grieving and healing, including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, blog articles, featured stories, recommended books, and other support organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. We also have a page with ideas on how to care for a friend or family member who has experienced pregnancy loss.


In addition, every month, I lead free Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find friendship and support. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name.


Lastly, our Pinterest page has beautiful graphics of quotes & Scripture from this episode, along with many other resources that you can pin and save. We would also love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. We’d love for you to follow along and spread the word about the Cradled in Hope Podcast. Now let’s get back to our episode.


Ashley Opliger: [00:33:22] I want to read to you Matthew 1:22-23. It says, “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which translated means God with us.


God is with us. He is with us in our pain. He is with us when we cry ourselves to sleep. He is with us in our anxiety and our depression. He knows how much we miss our babies, and, thank God, He is holding them right now. We can trust Him because He is the One who created your baby. He is the One who loves them more than we can ever understand, and He loves you more than you can ever understand.


And He longs to be present with you, to be with us, Emmanuel to you in this season, to come closer to you than any friend or family member ever could and just wrap His arms around you and love you through your pain. So momma, can I just please encourage you to let Him love you, let Him love on you in this season?


One of the moms shared with me this prayer, and she used the phrase, “feeling His love like a weighted blanket.” She wanted to feel Him like a weighted blanket and that visual imagery and that physical imagery for me to think about what it feels like to have a weighted blanket on me.


Think of His love blanketing you in this season, keeping you warm and keeping you safe, keeping you protected. He is going to be so close to you if you will allow Him to.


The Bible says in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He is with us as we are crushed, as we are in pain, and our hearts are breaking, and we feel like we won't even survive this season. He is going to be your strength in your weakness. Let Him walk with you. Let Him hold you up through the season.


Speaking of Emmanuel, I would like to close with the song. O Come, O Come Emmanuel. As we were talking about Christmas songs on our Hope Online support group, one of the moms shared with me that that was one of her favorite songs, and that it gave her so much hope in the holiday season.


And she shared with me something that I did not know is that O Come, O Come Emmanuel, many people believe that it was written referencing Jesus' First Coming, which would be for Christmas. That's why it's a Christmas song. “O come, O come,” like, “Jesus, come and fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah, the Savior that the Jews had been waiting for all of these years.


But, I don't know if it was actually written for the Second Coming or if it just has a hidden, deeper meaning within the song. It's written in 1851 by a priest and scholar named John Mason Neal. And it's unclear based on my research exactly what his intentions were of writing for the First or Second Coming. But there's many people that believe that it could be used for both.


The lyrics say, “O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” Hard for me not to sing these as I'm reading them. Trust me, you don't want me to sing.


What I love about this is that even though we don't know if the lyrics were written for the First Coming or the Second Coming, we can sing them in reference to Christmas, the First Coming, but also as our souls and our hearts long in waiting for the Second Coming, for the Son of God to appear in the clouds.


The Word says that He is going to come back the same way He left, which was in the clouds. In Acts 1:11, this is the recording of the Ascension of Jesus after He came back from the dead, when He left earth, which is what they call the Ascension. So as Jesus was talking to His disciples, He said these things. And as they were looking on, He was lifted up and a cloud took Him out of their sight.


And while they were gazing into Heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by in white robes and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into Heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven.’


So we know when Jesus comes back, He is going to come back in the clouds, and this is also referenced in Revelation 1:7. It says, “Behold, He is coming with clouds and every eye will see Him.


So we know He's going to come back in the clouds and this is our hope. This is what we can look forward to, is to celebrate His birth, but know that He's coming back. And as Christians, this is our greatest hope. This is what we have to look forward to in this time between His first and Second Coming that we live in.


We truly live in Biblical times right now. It's exciting and thrilling and scary all at the same time, but we have a blessed hope that no one can take away. There's nothing that can take us away from the love of God. And I just praise Him for who He is. I'm so grateful that God sent His own Son to die for us.


It's hard for us to fathom that kind of love, but as grieving moms, I think we more than anyone else can understand what it's like to lose a child. And we are sinners. God is perfect. He gave up His perfect Son to die for the sinner. And I pray that gives you hope in this season.


I pray that these ideas of having grace for yourself and for your family members and your friends, communicating your expectations and your needs, and helping your family members support you the best that they can, I pray that this season would be a time for you to draw so close to your Savior.


And as hard and difficult as these days are going to be for you and as sorrowful and as many tears that you may cry, I pray that your Savior would become your best friend, that you would feel His love and His presence in your life, that when you get to the springtime and the trees bloom, the grass becomes green again and you're lifted out of the season, that you would look back at these winter months, this difficult holiday season and you would say, “You know what? That was a very hard season, but I grew so close to my Daddy, my Father in Heaven, and I wouldn't trade that season for anything.”


And I know that's a hard place to get to in your faith and in your walk. I have been through the valleys of grief. And during those seasons, I wanted nothing more to get out of them. I did not want to be in that kind of pain. I did not want to be grieving. I did not want to be apart from my daughter.


I wanted life to be the way I wanted it to be and I wanted to be celebrating with my daughter. And I still feel that way. I still miss her so much and I have two little boys now, and I still grieve that they don't have their older sister to be celebrating with. And she's going to be someone I grieve for the rest of my life.


But I know that when I take my final breath on earth, and I don't know when that day is going to be but when that day comes, I know that she is going to be on my mind as I'm taking my last breath. And I pray that first of all, that I get to see the face of God and Jesus first, but then right after I get to meet my Lord and Savior, that I get to see my precious little girl in Heaven. It’s a good and perfect paradise without sin and death and I'll never be separated from her again.


And friends, if I can leave you with one final thought, it’s that that day is coming for you too. There will be a day that you take your final breath on this earth and you could see the face of your child. You will get to hold your child again. You will never be separated from them ever again. The reason we have that hope is because of Christmas.


And so I pray, as hard as Christmas is, that you would tune your hearts into the hope and praise your Savior, Jesus, for giving you that amazing gift. So let me pray as we close this episode.


Dear God, thank You for this time to just speak straight to the heart of a grieving mom. I'm sitting here in my office with a podcast mic in front of me, but as I have my hands clasped in prayer and my eyes closed, I'm imagining a grieving mom sitting right in front of me. I don't know who all listens to this podcast. I don't know your name as you're listening to this, but momma, please know that you are on my heart. You're on my mind.


You are the reason we record these episodes. And I want you to know that if you were sitting right here in front of me, that I would give you a big hug and I would cry with you and I would pray with you. And I would be remembering your baby with you.


I know this season's going to be so hard and I hate that you have to miss them and you have to grieve them and that you have to bring a bear to your family Christmas instead of a baby. I hate this for you. I wish more than anything that I could reverse time and change things and bring your baby back. But I can't, I'm just a human, I'm another grieving mom that wasn't able to change my own circumstances.


Praise God, there is one man in the history of all mankind and on this earth, there's only one man that's been able to defeat death. There's only one man that promises us salvation through His Name alone and that gives us the hope to see our babies again, and to be in Heaven with Him forever and ever.


So Jesus, thank You so much for that hope. Thank You for coming as a humble little baby in a straw manger, laying there amongst animals, there the Virgin Mary and her husband, Joseph, in this manger where no other room, no other inn was able to accommodate them, that the Savior of the world, who could have come in as a prince, as a king, You came as a humble servant to serve others, to preach the good news of the Gospel and to die a criminal's death on a Roman cross.


God, You are so good, We are so undeserving of this kind of love. And I thank You so much that You did that for us and that when we die, we get to see our babies again forever. And that's all we want. That's all we want as grieving moms. And it's not that we just want Heaven because we want our babies. God, we want You. We want You. We want You. We need You. You are our Savior. We love You so much. Thank You for Heaven. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for Christmas.


God, I just want to lift up each mom that's listening right now. Lord, You know her name. You know her baby's name. If she has several children in Heaven, God, You know each of their names. You are holding them right now in Your presence. They are alive and whole with You in Heaven.


And God, I just pray that through these airwaves, Lord, that You would reach these moms directly where they are, wherever they're sitting right now or laying down or standing or driving in their car, Lord, wherever they are, that You would give them peace and comfort like a weighted blanket around them, that You would wrap them up in Your loving arms, You would let them know they are going to be okay, that You are going to be with them every step of the way.


I pray that You would give each mom strength as they navigate how to go about their gatherings and their traditions, Lord, that You would give them guidance and provision as they go about the holiday season.


God, I pray that You would make friendships within this ministry and the moms who are listening to this podcast, that You would give us each other, to support and encourage on this journey, especially through the holiday season. Thank You, Lord, that You've given us each other and most importantly, that You've given us the gift of Your Son. It's in His holy Name we pray. Amen.


Ashley Opliger: [00:47:00] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s message. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a future episode. New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast.


There you can download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, that is filled with notes, Scripture, links, discussion questions, and so much more. Be sure to leave your email address so that we can keep you updated on podcast episodes, upcoming support groups, and other hope-filled resources.


If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Bridget’s Cradles in memory of a baby in Heaven, you can find information on our website on how you can get involved and spread hope to other grieving families.


One way you can spread hope is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the two minutes of your time as a way YOU can personally share this hope with a mom whose heart is broken and needs healing. Thank you so much for listening and sharing. Until next time, we will be praying for you. And remember, as Jesus cradles our babies in Heaven, He cradles us in hope. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope.


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