Join us for a conversation with Kristin Hernandez about finding hope when the holidays hurt. Kristin shares from her new advent journal about how to grieve with hope through the Christmas season when you're missing a baby/ies in Heaven.
After losing five precious babies, Kristin talks about how her faith helped her through the holidays. Our topic is Advent, which in Latin means "coming" referencing the longing of our Messiah. We discuss parallels between the Jews waiting in the Old Testament for Jesus' First Coming and now in the New Testament how we are currently awaiting His Second Coming!
In this episode, we discussed:
Experiencing grief and gratitude at the same time
How conflicting emotions can coexist
Why we don't need to be grateful for all things
What is Advent and why does it point to Jesus' Second Coming?
Why Christmas (Jesus' First Coming) gives us hope for the future
The faithfulness of God's promises
How the Old Testament beginning in Genesis 3 points to Jesus
Unexpected grief on New Years and why moving on to a new year can be hard
Do our babies need us to honor them with special traditions?
Christmas memorial ideas in memory of our babies in Heaven
Full transcript below.
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!)
Kristin mentions 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (giving thanks in all circumstances) and shares that we need not be grateful for all things but be grateful in all things. We don't need to be grateful for death or for hard trials. However, we are commanded to be thankful in the midst of these difficult circumstances. Name some things you are grateful for even in the middle of this grief season.
In this episode, we talk about how Jesus' First Coming (and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies) gives us hope for His Second Coming. God is faithful to His promises and to His Word. How does this Advent season - waiting and longing for Jesus' return - give you hope? Say a prayer to Jesus in anticipation of His Second Coming...what would you say to Him if today was the day?
We discuss memorial ideas during the Christmas season that you can do in memory of your baby. But Kristin also shares that it's okay if you can't or don't feel like doing a lot this year. Our babies don't "need" us to do anything because they are alive and happy in Heaven. How does this perspective give you the freedom to honor them in the ways you feel/want this Christmas?
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!
MEET OUR GUEST
Kristin Hernandez is a writer, podcaster, wife, and mother to six children—one in her arms and five with Jesus.
Kristin blogs at sunlightindecember.com and is the author of "Sunlight in December: A mother’s story of finding the goodness of God in the storm of grief." Her Advent Journal, Hope When the Holidays Hurt, released this year.
Connect with Kristin:
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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 1,300 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.
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Episode 31: Hope When the Holidays Hurt with Kristin Hernandez
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks.
Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land.
Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven.
Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:51] Hello, friends. This episode releasing today on December 1st is the beginning of Advent season and the countdown to Christmas. We know this season can be heavy on grieving hearts, and so we wanted to take some time to talk about grieving through the holidays. Today we have our good friend Kristin Hernandez joining us to talk about her Advent journal Hope When the Holidays Hurt.
Kristin is a writer, podcaster, and author of Sunlight In December, A Mother's Story of Finding the Goodness of God in the Storm of Grief. She is a wife and mother to six children, one in her arms and five with Jesus, and she is passionate about sharing hope with grieving women. Kristin lives in Southern California with her husband and son, and we've had Kristin on the show before, Episode 5, if you'd like to go back and listen to more of her story.
It's so wonderful to have Kristin on today. We love her heart for Jesus and for ministering to grieving mommas’ hearts. We hope you'll find comfort in this episode, but most importantly in the peace that only Jesus can bring. He is the reason for the season and we pray that you can feel Him close to your heart as you walk through Advent with Him. He is Emmanuel, the God who is with us. He promises to be with you and comfort your heart.
Please know that we are praying for you and wishing you a very Merry Christmas. The Bridget's Cradles team and myself send you all of our hugs and love. Merry Christmas, and I hope you enjoy this episode with Kristin.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:20] Welcome back, Kristin, to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We're so grateful to have you on for a second time.
Kristin Hernandez: [00:02:26] I am so happy to be back, Ashley. It's always such a joy to talk with you.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:30] Well, we were just talking about the beautiful friendship that has come since our first episode together, which was Episode 5, when you shared Ethan and your babies in Heaven story and your testimony of wrestling with God through your story of loss. And we have just developed this friendship across the states, really across the country.
Kristin Hernandez: [00:02:53] Yes.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:54] And I'm so grateful for you and your ministry, and the way that you pour into mommas online and in person. And so thank you for everything that you do.
Kristin Hernandez: [00:03:03] Yeah. Thank you. The feeling is mutual. I just love that we can partner together even with being in separate states, completely different parts of the country, but really doing the same Kingdom work and wanting to encourage women and men as they're walking through the suffering and the really heavy grief of losing a baby. And I'm just so thankful for you and that we get to do this together.
Ashley Opliger: [00:03:28] Absolutely. Well, we wanted you back on right now because you have a very timely message to share. We are about to enter into the holiday season, which for a grieving parent who's lost their baby, it is an incredibly difficult time to mourn their baby and miss all of the milestones and the traditions that you do as a family through the holidays. And so it's a very sensitive and tender time for a grieving heart.
And you created this beautiful Advent journal that's called Hope When the Holidays Hurt. And I have a copy right here. We actually have a lot of copies because we're giving away these to all of our mommas that come to our support groups in November.
And then you're also giving away a copy to a listener here, and we'll talk about that later. But it's 25 days of devotions through the holidays, from December 1st through the 25th is how you planned it, but you really could do it anytime.
And so I want to talk about grieving through the holidays and talk about this Advent journal as a hope-filled resource for grieving parents. But before we get into that conversation, would you introduce yourself and tell us your story, for those listeners who haven't heard your story yet?
Kristin Hernandez: [00:04:38] I'd be happy to. I'll try to keep it brief because I know that there is a previous episode that has more details. But my name is Kristin Hernandez. I live in Southern California with my husband Chris.
By the time this comes out, we will have been married 11 years. We're nearing 11 years a week from this recording date, so in November we'll celebrate 11 years. And we have a four-year-old son, and our family is much larger than it looks to most people who meet us. I am very thankful for what looks like our little family of three, but I'm actually a momma to six babies.
Our first son, Ethan, passed away 93 minutes after his birth due to Trisomy 9 or complications caused by Trisomy 9, which is a very severe and very rare chromosome abnormality. And that rocked my entire world. We carried Ethan to term with the knowledge that he would likely pass away during the delivery or shortly after the delivery.
One of the most difficult things that we have ever to this day walked through was my pregnancy with him. But looking back, I would do it again, just to have that experience with him and to meet him, and those days with him are so precious.
In the years that followed, we had a series of miscarriages. We lost our second precious baby at about five weeks, pretty early, but still just as heavy of a loss and still one of our precious children.
A few months after that, we lost our third baby at eight weeks, and then over a year later, we were pregnant again with identical twins and things were looking really good. And when I was just under 11 weeks pregnant, I went to an appointment and was told that both of them no longer had a heartbeat. They had stopped growing.
So had some second opinions, confirmed what we already suspected was true, and I ended up having a D&C later that week and really wrestled with God after losing five babies.
We struggled with infertility; that's another part of our story. Before we got pregnant with Ethan, we ended up conceiving him without any outside help or without doing anything else. It was when we had kind of “given up” that God allowed us to have this miracle pregnancy.
And so being pregnant so easily after that felt like such a surprise and it almost felt cruel to me, which I think led me to this series of wrestling with God, this season of just being angry and asking so many questions of, “Lord, I feel like You answered this prayer so specifically, and now I don't get to raise these children here,” and really wrestled with that.
So after this series of five losses, losing Ethan and the four miscarriages, my husband and I were just so fearful of becoming pregnant again, but really desired to have children. And we were praying through what that would look like for us.
And we ended up becoming pregnant again with our sixth baby, who is now four. His name's Andrew. He’s such a joy in our lives. But my pregnancy with him was very high-risk. I ended up being diagnosed with incompetent cervix, which we had no idea that I had prior.
I'm not even sure that I had it prior. I have suspicions that I may have developed it after some of my pregnancies, specifically after the D&C, because it was so soon after the D&C that I got pregnant again. But regardless of how it happened, I ended up having incompetent cervix with him. I was hospitalized for 10 weeks.
I really thought we were going to lose him and it truly is a miracle that I stayed on hospital bed rest for 10 weeks until he was 32 weeks. That's when I delivered him. And he was born strong and healthy and spent a month in the NICU. And here we are, four and a half years later and just very grateful, and grateful and grieving. We hold both of those things simultaneously.
I'm so incredibly grateful for his life and for my family, and I also feel that hole often of, there are five other children that are not in our home, that are with Jesus and I take comfort in that, but that we still miss very much. And so yeah, it's definitely grateful and grieving often as we go through our days.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:43] Yes, and you actually talk about that in your Advent journal This is Day 11 in your journal, Grief and Gratitude, because Thanksgiving season is when we're supposed to be thankful and we're thinking about all the blessings that God has given us and our families.
And for those of us who have living children and children in Heaven, we are so grateful for our living children, but we're also still missing our babies so much. And as you mentioned in your book as well, there's that empty seat and those memories where you're taking your fall pictures of your family. And for you, there's only three people in the picture, but that's not how many people are in the family.
And we just took our fall pictures and we always have our little Bridget bear with us. And it's just heartbreaking because I'm like, “This is just not the way that it was supposed to be.”
And I think about, “What would she have looked like at this age? And how would she be interacting with her brothers?” And those family memories are very sweet, but also bittersweet because you're missing your baby. And so would you elaborate more on the feelings of grief and gratitude as we're going through the holiday season?
Kristin Hernandez: [00:09:53] Yeah. We're told to rejoice always, and that's one of those things that is like, “How do I do this?”
In this part of the journal I talk about 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 where we are given that command, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” And I had wrestled with that.
You mentioned Thanksgiving and even Christmas, there is such this, even culturally, even outside of the church, I think, even within our culture there's this push to give thanks, be thankful, talk about your blessings, count your blessings, talk about all the things you're grateful for, and dwell on these things. And I wrestled with, “How do I do this,” especially in those first few years. I mean, those first few years were so hard.
That ache of grief is still there as we go into holiday seasons. It has gotten much lighter for me these last few years, but those first few years especially were such a challenge for me.
And as I was wrestling with this and I was reading my Bible, it occurred to me one day that we need not be grateful for all things, but we can be grateful in all things.
So we don't need to be grateful for things that are the results of the Fall. Some of the things in this world and some of the suffering that people are walking through are a direct consequence of sin. Those aren't things we should be grateful for. And even death. I mean, it's this indirect consequence; it is a direct consequence of sin, but indirect.
I'm not saying that the deaths that we experience in our life are like punishment. That is not what I'm saying at all. I just mean because sin entered the world, now there is death. We live in this world where this happens, and sometimes for reasons that we can't explain. It is not because of something you did. It is not something you had any control over.
And so death is the enemy. I mean, Jesus came to conquer death, and so we need not be grateful for death. We don't need to be thankful that death is part of our world. We don't need to be grateful that our world is broken.
We don't need to be grateful for those things. Those are not things that we are called to rejoice in Biblically. But we can be grateful in the midst of all things, in all circumstances.
So in death we can be grateful that this life is not the end and that because of Christ and if we are in Him, and I believe that babies are in Him, we can rejoice to know that we've been saved and that we have the hope of Heaven. We have the hope of spending eternity with Christ. And because of Christmas, we have this hope.
And in our sorrows, we can be grateful that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings. Scripture says that. I'm so grateful that He intercedes for us when we're groaning and we don't have words.
And so I think it is so freeing for us to know that we don't need to give thanks for these hard things, but we can still be grateful for all that the Lord has done in the midst of these things.
But we can call these things what they are and that is broken and hard. And we can lament and that can be holy to come before the Lord and say, “This is broken. This is hard. I am grieving. My heart is broken. But thank You for Jesus. Thank You for Christmas. Thank You for sending Jesus down, fully God, fully man, as a baby, to grow into a man who would die in our place and give us redemption and salvation, and give us this hope of eternity and this hope that there is more than this broken world that we are lamenting over.”
I think that's just such a big part of Advent too. It's counting down and not only counting down to when Christ came the first time, but that posture pointing us toward now counting down to when Christ will come again. And we have all these Scriptures in the Old Testament promising us that the Messiah would come and then we see the fulfillment of it.
And so because we see the fulfillment of those promises, we know that the New Testament promises of Him coming again are true because we already have the proof that He finishes what He says He will do, and so we can look to Christmas, that Advent season, knowing that just like God's people counted down to Christ coming that very first time, we too can have that same posture of expectation and hope as we lament and mourn and wait for His Second Coming.
Ashley Opliger: [00:14:09] Amen sister. I'm like, “Oh, there's so many things that I want to say here.” First of all, I'm going to go back to the gratitude, and there's a saying that we like to say in our support groups called ‘holding both’.
That’s basically the idea that it's okay to hold both. Everything doesn't have to be a “but” - like for example, “I am so grateful for my living children, but I'm missing my baby in Heaven.” It can be, “And I miss my baby in Heaven.”
So this idea that these conflicting emotions that we experience through the holidays, joy and sorrow, they don't necessarily have to be conflicting. They can actually both coexist at the same time, which feels weird because you might be at a holiday party or at Christmas morning, and there might be feelings of joy that come across your heart as you're experiencing that with your family and you're remembering the hope that we have in Christ.
But at the same time, there's going to be those stings in your heart of the brokenness and sadness that you feel missing your baby, and wishing that your baby was experiencing their first Christmas and opening their presents. And if your loss happened years ago, what kind of toys would they have liked to open and the Christmas jammy pictures and all of those things. There's just so many memories that you had hoped to make.
And so knowing that those two feelings can coexist and they don't necessarily have to conflict, and also accepting that and letting yourself feel your feelings and emotions, and allowing God to step in and process that with Him and allow Him to work in your heart whatever way you're feeling, I feel like that's very helpful.
And so I love that you talk about that in your Advent journal because it says, here I'm going to read one of the sentences that you said, “Grief and gratitude are not exclusive. Today your heart may feel broken. Today your eyes may be filled with tears of sorrow. Today you may mourn over all that has been lost. Today I hope you know it is okay to mourn. Today I hope you know you need not to be grateful for death. Today I hope you know your grief need not cancel out your gratitude.” And so they don't have to cancel each other out.
Also, I was going to say, I love that you do have prophecy in here about Jesus' Second Coming.
For our listeners who have listened to our podcasts for some time, you may know that Bible prophecy is an area of passion that I really enjoy studying because Jesus actually talked about the End Times and His Second Coming many times when He was here on earth.
And just like you said, when the Jews were waiting all of these years, 400 years of silence from God, waiting for the coming Messiah and all of the prophets were speaking about this Messiah that was coming, and they had very specific prophecies about that. And Jesus came and fulfilled every single prophecy and He fulfilled them all literally.
And so looking forward to His Second Coming gives us so much hope that He is the God of His promises. He's going to be faithful to that and we have this amazing hope to look forward to. And the Resurrection is coming, and that’s for us and for our babies in Heaven. And that's going to be the glorious reunion that we have to look forward to.
So I love that you talk about that in there. There's actually two pages about the promises of the coming Messiah. Do you want to elaborate a little bit on that?
Kristin Hernandez: [00:17:26] Yes. I broke that into two parts, and part one is Day 5 in the journal. I wanted to break down the promises of the coming Messiah from the Old Testament. So if you're not familiar, and I encourage you to take time to read through your whole Bible if you haven't done this already, but the whole Old Testament points to the coming of Jesus.
I think I grew up with this thinking that the Old Testament was just a lot of stories and they were about God, but it's all these stories. But really every single story in the Old Testament points to the coming of Jesus in some way. It all points toward our need for a Savior, the fact that we could not atone for our sins, we could not do it all.
And from the very beginning, in Genesis 3:15, when sin and brokenness entered the world following Adam and Eve's disobedience, that's where we see this first promise of the coming Messiah, when God says He, referring to Christ, to Jesus.
It says, “He will crush your head and you will strike his heel,” giving this prophecy that Jesus would come and crush Satan under His feet and that there would be victory.
And this is the very moment that sin is entering the world and everything is, in our eyes, coming apart. I mean, God is sovereign over all this. He knew this was going to happen, but in our eyes, it seems like everything is spinning out of control.
And it's that very first prophecy that somebody will come, this person being Jesus, will come and put an end to all of this. And it goes on through the Old Testament. I mean, I couldn't even list every verse even in this journal because the whole Old Testament points to Jesus coming.
But in Isaiah 7:14, it says, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel.” And again, Isaiah 9:6 we get that very well-known passage during Christmas of, “For unto us a child is born, to us, a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His Name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
And I think as we read these today, or at least I know for me personally, as I've read through the Old Testament, it's so easy for me just to read through it quickly and be like, “Oh, great. Well, I know the end of the story. I know Jesus is coming. I already know this. I already know the story, the Christmas story,” this classic Christmas story that is the Biblical account of Christ coming to earth. “We already know the story, so I know that this is going to happen. Of course it makes sense.”
But I think it's often lost on us just how long God's people had to wait for this to happen. We have the privilege of reading these words today and then having our Bible open and flipping a few hundred pages later, and we can read in Matthew and in Luke, we can read all of these accounts of Jesus' birth and all of these promises coming true. I mean, we can read of His whole life and see all of the promises fulfilled.
But there were 400 years of silence for God's people, where the prophets didn't share anything. There was nothing. There were all these prophecies of Him coming, and then years and years of perceived silence. That is full lifetimes. Even if it took us a few years to get through reading our Bible end to end, we would not be waiting as long as God's people were waiting and trusting that He was going to send the Messiah and that Jesus would come to earth and be the atonement for our sins and set things right.
And so it's so awesome that this day we now celebrate as Christmas signifies the fulfillment of so many promises and so many years of waiting in expectation, and that's something I talk about a lot in here is, we can circle back around to this, but just how Advent is a season of anticipation, of waiting.
And sometimes we don't think of Christmas as that. We think it's just joyful and we're all happy. But really if you think about Advent, it's not just counting down with a candy calendar, which is fun to do, but that's not what it is. It's this waiting with longing for the Messiah to come. And they didn't know when He would come.
So now that we see that Christ fulfilled all of these promises, we know that, skipping ahead to the next day, I know I'm making this a long explanation, but in Day 6, talking of the promises of the coming Messiah, part two, we are living in what you could call a second Advent season.
We had that whole first Advent season of God's people waiting and longing and having these promises and not knowing. Like, “When.“Lord? When are You going to send this Messiah? Who will He be? How will this happen?”
But throughout Scripture we see in John 5, Jesus talks about, “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out.” He talks about this Resurrection for those who are in Christ.
John 14:1-3 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. In my father's house, or many rooms. If it were not, so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” And He talks about how, “Where I am, you will be there with Me. I'm going to prepare this place for you.”
Titus 2:13 talks about how we have this Blessed Hope, and that is the appearing of the glory of God.
Revelation 21, I mean, Revelation has so much, but Revelation, this climax of He will wipe away every tear and there will be no more crying, no more mourning, for those former things have passed away. No more death.
And so we know that because Christ already fulfilled all of these promises, we know that God's Word is trustworthy. We have proof of it through Scripture.
And so as we are in this posture of anticipation in the Advent season, may it remind us that just like God's people first waited, we too wait again. But we have this privilege and this wonderful thing of we know that this has already happened and so we can cling to that, knowing that God doesn't change. It's the same God.
He is the same as the God who was there when the world was created. The Lord has not changed. His character does not change, and so our hearts can rejoice in this treasure of Christmas of His First Coming, knowing that this made a way for all that will come again in His Second Coming.
Ashley Opliger: [00:23:19] Amen. And I love that you said that the Old Testament, so many times we think of it as all of these stories, the Bible stories that we learned growing up. But every single promise and covenant that was made to Abraham and to David and to Moses, all of those are pointing to Jesus. And so every covenant in the Bible really is pointing to the coming Messiah.
And it's interesting that you mentioned Genesis 3 about crushing the head of the serpent, because I actually recently heard a pastor preach on Genesis 3, and I realized something that I hadn't seen before. It's actually in Genesis 3:21. It's after Adam and Eve realized that they were naked.
It said, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” And then after that, they were banished from the Garden of Eden. But going back to garments of skin, I didn't think about this, but that was actually the first sacrifice that God made because to get the garments of skin, there would've had to have been an animal sacrifice. And so that's the first time in the Bible where there's this sacrifice of blood and skin to cover up the sin of man, and that's another picture pointing toward Jesus.
And so it's just so beautiful when you look at the whole Bible from beginning to end, how it's this story, everything is woven together to point to Jesus, and I just love that. And it does culminate in His birth, and then obviously His death on the cross and most importantly, His resurrection.
If His resurrection didn't happen, then all of that would've been for naught, but the fact that He did overcome the grave and just like the prophets had said. And it's so amazing and there's actual research on this, but just even the statistics of Jesus, the man who lived, who even atheists would agree that there was a man that lived named Jesus.
But where Christians differ from other religions and people is, was Jesus just a teacher? Was He a lunatic or was He really God? And it's amazing because if you look at all the prophecies in the Old Testament, the statistics that He would fulfill, every single one is just incredibly like-
Kristin Hernandez: [00:25:32] Yeah, it's amazing.
Ashley Opliger: [00:25:32] There's no other way unless He really was who He said He was. And so that's just so encouraging to me. But I think focusing on, during the Advent season, this coming hope that still awaits us, and think about it. It's been 2022 years since His birth and so it really has been a long time for us to wait for His Second Coming.
And when some of the New Testament was written, the early church, they were really expecting Him any day. The Jews would leave each other saying, “Maranatha”, which meant, “Come, Lord Jesus,” like, “He's coming soon.” And they were fully expecting that they were going to see their friend Jesus again very soon. And so here we are 2,000 years later, still waiting, still hoping.
And I do think sometimes Christians, because it's been so long, are like, “Oh. He's not coming back soon because it's been so long,” and sometimes we forget. “No, it could happen any day,” and just waiting in that eager hope. And the Bible tells us to be waiting. So I'm so glad that you shared that.
Ashley Opliger: [00:26:33] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We want to take a quick break to tell you about some resources our ministry provides to grieving moms.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find hope-filled resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, featured stories, and recommended books and other organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays.
In addition, every month I lead 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.
Lastly, we would 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. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find community. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:27:43] We've talked a lot about Christmas, but right after Christmas is the New Year, and that is also an overlooked holiday for grieving. And there's a lot of emotions that come with that.
I know from speaking to so many grieving moms, when you've lost a baby in a particular calendar year, leaving that year and moving into a new year can be really hard because it's leaving that year that you were pregnant with your baby, leaving the year that you held your baby for the only time. And so that can also be hard. And you talk about the New Year in Advent journal, so would you share about that as well?
Kristin Hernandez: [00:28:19] Yeah, so I mentioned that first Christmas after we lost Ethan, and it was so hard. And it's so interesting to me because I look back on that year and I don't have any really clear memories of Christmas.
I think I was just in such survival mode, it's hard for me to remember what we did. I had to look at pictures to remember. As I was writing this, I was thinking a lot about that first year. And Ethan passed away in 2015, and I made it through Christmas.
I just wanted to make it through Christmas. That was my focus the whole holiday season was, “I just have to get through this holiday that is so painful. I thought I would have a baby here.” Christmas is such a family and child-centered holiday culturally. It's very focused on the joy in your children's eyes and seeing happy families and Christmas cards and all of this. And I just felt like, “I just need to survive this year, get through it.”
Christmas ended and I made it, and then New Year came around and I thought, “I did not expect this to be the hardest day for me.” And it was harder than Christmas. And I know that may not be the same for everybody. That may not be everyone's experience, but I dreaded leaving this year behind, exactly like you said, the year where I found out I was pregnant that year.
Ethan was born in August. I found out I was pregnant in 2015. I delivered him in 2015. He passed away in 2015. Everything was 2015. And seeing on New Year's Eve 2015 all of these people celebrating that the new year is coming, rejoicing in it, time is marching forward and people are like, “Yes, forget 2015. We're onto a new year. It's going to be great.”
And I just felt so isolated and sad. I felt like I was leaving this piece of him that I had and I felt like the world was marching full speed ahead and I didn't even know which way was forward.
I felt like I was just drowning and trying to find my footing and didn't have a lot of hope for the future that year, just felt very sad and very down and very heavy, and was almost afraid of what was next for us.
I just felt like, “We walked through this difficult thing. I don't see this getting better and everyone else is just so happy to move forward. And I feel like I can't even stand and everyone's running full speed ahead.”
And so I think that is the unexpected difficult holiday. Like you, Ashley, I've talked to other loss moms that have shared that holiday was unexpectedly very difficult. And I remember my husband saying something to me once, just in this whole season of, “We've never been in control, but we just see it more clearly now after going through such a loss.”
And so I think there's difficulty in seeing people make resolutions and look ahead when we think, “I don't even know what's going to happen. I've done all these things, I had all these plans, and they just shattered in my hands,” and just surrendering that.
And it's okay to make plans. It's good to make plans. It's good to do things, but to hold all of our plans in an open palm of surrender and just acknowledge that we aren't the ones in control and the Lord is going to sustain us and carry us through all of our days, and that He will be with us as we walk into the unknown.
And so [that] day has just such a tender place in my heart, especially when talking to other loss moms, because I know that it does feel like you are moving on. And I hate that phrase, and I don't mean it as flippantly as it may sound, but it almost feels like I'm being forced to move on or to move forward, really, further away from this very precious part of my life.
Ashley Opliger: [00:31:46] Yeah, and I think that holiday just creeps up on you because no one's planning for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. You're thinking about Christmas and then Christmas is over and then all of a sudden it's New Year's and it's a day of celebration.
It's a day of looking forward, and people are making their resolutions for all the things they want to do the next year. And when your world has fallen apart, you're not looking at a year ahead. You're really just trying to survive the next hour, the next day.
And so having grace for yourself, knowing that God's going to sustain you one day, one hour, one minute at a time, you don't have to have resolutions every year and releasing and surrendering your plans for your life, knowing that God continues to have a hope-filled plan for your life.
And you don't know what that's always going to look like, His plans are so different than ours, knowing He's going to be with you in the coming year. But it is so hard when you're walking through it and you just don't know what's going to come for your family and for your own personal life and in your grief. So thank you that you addressed that because I know that is a unexpected hard holiday.
Before we close, I would like to talk now about Christmas and the holidays going backwards now a little bit, but about how to honor our babies in Heaven. For my family, we have some special, sweet little ways that we celebrate Bridget's life.
We have a stocking for her, both at our own house and at both grandparents' houses. We also have an ornament for Bridget on all of our Christmas trees. We usually will do a year-end donation in memory of her to Bridget's Cradles and so will our families, and that's really special. But do you have any that your family does that would be encouraging, or other ideas that you've heard of for families when they're walking into the season?
Kristin Hernandez: [00:33:31] Yeah. I've heard of so many ideas. I'll share a few we do, and then a few of my favorites that others have shared, and then maybe some encouragement too that comes to mind when I think about this.
Well, let me start with that, because I think it is so good for us as loss moms to remember that our babies are whole and have everything they need. And if we cannot do a single thing in their memory this Christmas, you did not let them down. They are loved. They are known. The Lord has them and they are not sad. They no longer have any need or want. They're not sad.
And I think that's hard for us to grasp because we are separated from them and so we are sad and that is okay. That's very appropriate to be very heartbroken and to lament over this, because this is not how it should be.
But I think it's a good reminder for me and also hard for me to wrap my mind around that Ethan does not miss me. That is so hard for me to grasp because I miss him so deeply. But he has so much joy. And time, I'm sure, is different outside of how we know time here.
Just to give anyone listening that freedom, and I'm going to share some of the things we have done. This changes sometimes year to year. There are years that feel differently than others.
And so if that is where you are at, I want to give you that freedom that if this is a year that you don't have the capacity to do a lot, that is okay. You are still your baby's mother. You are still honoring their life. The Lord is still working in their story.
So with that in mind, we do have a stocking that we put up every year for Ethan. I have a lot of Ethan ornaments. People have given us ornaments. His nursery was a forest theme and foxes were his big thing. And so we have a lot of fox ornaments that people have given us in memory of him and a few we bought.
And it's so sweet because my four-year-old, now foxes are his favorite animal. And I think that was just influenced by having so many of them around our house and at different holidays and things. But so we have the ornaments and the stocking and those are the things that I consistently do every year.
There are different things that you can do, depending on what the year looks like for you. I have heard of several people finding an organization that gives to children who are in need or maybe have parents in prison. I know Angel Tree does that. Just different organizations that partner with families to give them gifts during the holidays.
And I've heard of people picking a child who would be the age and if they lost a boy picking a little boy who would be the age that their child was, and giving a gift in memory. I've heard of people making donations to organizations in memory during the Christmas season or partnering with a local organization that hosts an event.
We stayed at a Ronald McDonald House when our youngest son was in the NICU, and even though that specific Ronald McDonald House and that hospital doesn't have a connection with Ethan, I know that they cook meals for families.
And so getting some friends together and find a local Ronald McDonald House or something like that and cooking a holiday meal during this time of year, there’s so many things that you can do.
Your Christmas cards, you get to choose how you sign your Christmas card, who you include in your Christmas card, what kind of picture you do for your Christmas card, and that is a way that you can include your baby.
And I think talking through with your family some of these expectations ahead of time, I think is really helpful. I know my husband and I, especially that first year, had different things we were comfortable with or not comfortable with.
And so I think that was also helpful for us to talk about expectations and things we wanted to do in his memory and things that just felt too hard to do and being able to come to some decisions together. And again, knowing that next year we might want to do it differently. And each year since then, this will be our eighth Christmas since we've lost Ethan, and every year has looked a little different.
Ashley Opliger: [00:37:10] Yes, I would definitely agree with everything that you said about honoring our babies. I really feel like honoring our babies is more for us and our families than it really is for our babies. And so maybe that wasn't worded well, but I think that it's what we need in that season. And like you said, it's going to change in different seasons.
But a lot of times having your baby acknowledged by family members is something that your heart needs, because it would be too hard to go into a Thanksgiving meal or a Christmas morning and your baby not be acknowledged.
And so in our Episode 13, which was our Christmas episode from last year, we actually really went into depth about this. It was a solo-cast that I shared some ideas, but I'll give you some bullet points and then I'll link it.
If any of our listeners want to go listen to that, it’s Episode 13. We talked about how to survive the holiday 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 your families for success to support and love you well; traditions and ways to honor your baby in Heaven for Christmas; allowing yourself to hold both and feel both happiness and sorrow; and then some Scripture and Christmas songs that bring hope in this season.
And obviously as well. I want to promote Hope When the Holidays Hurt because each day's journal has a devotional and then it also has Scripture to read and then a reflection question and a whole page to journal. And I really love that about this, is that you have time and space to feel your feelings and write everything down.
And so there's more resources for you if you're listening and grieving. You can find Hope When the Holidays Hurt on Amazon, and we will be doing a giveaway that Kristin is going to sign a copy and send it to you. And so we'll share details on our social media pages about how you can get signed up for that giveaway. But otherwise, you can go to amazon.com and find Hope When the Holidays Hurt.
Thank you, Kristin, so much for this beautiful resource. Thank you for your ministry online. Her Instagram page is filled with hope-filled Scripture and quotes for you to read through this season. Would you mind sharing your website and your social pages?
Kristin Hernandez: [00:39:24] Yes, I am Sunlight in December just about everywhere. So sunlightindecember.com is my website. My Instagram handle is @sunlightindecember and my email is email@example.com, if you want to send me a note or send me an email. All of that contact information is on my website as well.
And then I am not very active on Facebook, but on Facebook, if you do want to find me, I am sunlightindecemberblog. That is the handle there.
Ashley Opliger: [00:39:50] Yeah, and that is also the name of her first book, Sunlight In December, which we love very much. And so if you want to hear more of her story and journey through grief, that is also linked on our website as well, and you can find it on Amazon.
So Kristin, would you close us in prayer and pray for all the mommas listening that their hearts are broken and they're walking into this holiday season and it all feels very heavy and hard? Would you pray for their hearts now?
Kristin Hernandez: [00:40:17] Absolutely.
Heavenly Father, I thank You so much that we can just celebrate this season, Lord. And even when our hearts don't feel celebratory, when they are broken, God, I thank You that we can look ahead to the hope that we have of Jesus, the hope we have in Him, that He came and that He is coming again.
Lord, I just pray for the momma who is listening, who is struggling and is heartbroken and is missing her baby so deeply. Lord, I pray that You would comfort her. I pray that she would feel Your peace this season and even feel permission to grieve, and that she would just rest knowing that Jesus Himself was called, “a man of many sorrows, well acquainted with grief”, and that grief is not an inappropriate emotion for the holiday season.
I pray that she would just know that she can grieve and be grateful at the same time, and feel heartbroken and grateful for all Jesus has done at the same time. We pray for wisdom in making decisions this holiday season, whether that be deciding what to say yes and no to.
We pray for people to surround her, to encourage her and walk alongside her, and to remember her baby. And we ask that even if no one does, we thank You that you do and that You know them intimately, and we ask that You would remind us of that and that You know us as well, and that we would just rest in You and in the comfort that You give.
We thank You, Lord, that we can gather here, even through our podcast apps and through our earbuds, and encourage another and just be with one another as sisters in Christ. In Jesus' Name, amen.
Ashley Opliger: [00:41:50] Amen. Thank you, Kristin, so much for being here.
Kristin Hernandez: [00:41:53] Okay. Thank you so much for having me.
Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes when they release 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.
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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.
Cradled in Hope is part of the Edifi Podcast Network, a collection of faith-inspiring podcasts on Edifi, the world’s most powerful Christian podcasting app. To listen to Cradled in Hope and find other podcasts by leading Christian voices, download the Edifi app in the Apple and Google Play stores or online at edifi.app. Thank you so much for listening.
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