Episode 31 - Hope When the Holidays Hurt with Kristin Hernandez
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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.