Last year, to include and remember our son Leo, on what should have been his first Christmas, we created a little project that we called #AdventForLeo.
In the lead up to Advent, we planned a number of activities so that we had something to remember him through every day. The thought process was that Christmas can feel as relentless as grief. We were dreading it. The constant reminders that we should be celebrating with an almost one year old. So we decided to ‘own it’. Christmas wasn’t going to go anywhere, no matter how much we wanted to avoid it. So we turned it in to a project to focus on Leo, include him, share his name and create new memories.
So, what did we do? We did Random Acts of Kindness, visited new places, attended festive events, donated to charity toy drives, gave to the homeless, and included Leo in our decorations. So this year, we knew we wanted to repeat it, but we wanted to take it to the next level… and that’s were you come in!
We’d like to invite you to remember whoever you are missing this Christmas by performing an act every day in their honour throughout Advent. I don’t want to prescribe the types of activities that you could do, or when, like a normal Photo Challenge – I think its most effective doing things that reflect your family, interests and the love that you have for the person that you are remembering.
So, I’ve suggested some types of activities below, and look forward to the selection that you pick (this is no way an exhaustive list!). Whatever you choose to do though, I’d love it if you can share it each day using the #AdventToRemember and your own hashtag, #AdventForNAME, so people can follow your specific activities as well. I hope that by sharing what we all do, it’ll help others see how they can honour their loved ones during the festive season.
I hope that by taking part, you are able to soften the pain that can sometimes come from the intensity of the Christmas season, honour your loved one, and create new memories in their name. Please feel free to do as you wish and get as creative as you like!
What I would suggest doing throughout November is spend some time planning your Advent (and maybe getting creative and making some form of calendar?!) – have a look around you locally at some events that you may wish to go to and plan some dates for the larger things so you don’t have pressure on each day to fit it in, or think of what you’d like to do.
It would also be really nice if before you start, whenever suits you, you can share a post telling people who you are honouring this advent, using the hashtag #AdventToRemember. This isn’t required obviously, as some people may want to be a little more private, so do whatever works for you.
#AdventToRemember Pick n Mix
Random Act of Kindness – Random Acts of Kindness can be a really fun, yet simple way to remember your loved one. Things that we did last year included leaving a coffee shop voucher in a random place, leaving bags of chocolate coins on park benches, leaving a bag of change at a car park, buying a coffee for a Big Issue seller, sending friends gifts in the post. We included notes to explain what we were doing and linked back to our Instagram account and it was lovely to have people let us know when they had found them. Equally, there is joy in anonymity.
Charitable Acts – Doing something for charity was important to me last year, as we’d spent a year fundraising for Leo, so it seemed in-keeping with the way that we honour him. We donated toys to a Christmas hospital toy drive, donated to a neonatal charity knitting bears for babies, and sponsored friends. It’s often a really easy one to do if you have a busy day but also want to make sure you’ve done something to honour your loved one.
Decorate – the idea of putting the tree up and getting the house all festive just made my heart sink. So, our plan was to decorate Leo’s grave first, complete with his own Christmas tree and Santa! Once I knew we’d gave him the festive decor, I felt happier about decorating at home – but we also made sure in advance that we had some decorations for him on our tree. I also made him a Christmas card for our last act, ready to take to him on Christmas morning. If you decide to decorate your home, or a place that is linked to your loved one, share how you’ve included or honoured them. Its easy to feel the need to pretend Christmas isn’t happening, but we LOVE Christmas, so to be able to find a way to soften it and include Leo, meant we felt happier about the whole thing.
Local Festive Events – as normal during the Christmas season, there are Christmas themed events galore! It helped the tiny part of our mind that wanted to embrace the festivities to attend these events in honour of Leo – some things were things we might have taken him too (a Christmas market for example) and others probably not (a Christmas light show, a carol service), and some were directly for him (SANDS Christmas Service).
Creating Memories – One thing we always like doing for Leo is to create new memories that are associated to him. Last year, we visited new places and went to different events – and all together, December last year just reminds me of Leo, our love for him, and the memories that we made – not the pain of his death, or missing him. I figured thats a pretty good Christmas gift to yourself?
If you’d like to see more about what we did last year, look at the #AdventForLeo on Instagram, or read the post I wrote for Tommys : https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/about-us/charity-news/all-we-really-want-christmas
So, in a nutshell…
- Plan 24 different activities to do to honour your missed love one – they can be as small or as large as you’d like – but this is your loved one, and your way to honour them. Get creative, do what heals you, what you’d enjoy and you feel comfortable with.
- If you’d like to, it would be lovely to use the hashtag to share who you are doing #AdventToRemember for at some point before the project starts.
- Share them each day on Instagram using the project hashtag #AdvertToRemember, as well as your own hashtag if you’d like, #AdventForNAME ,and tag me so I don’t miss them – @thelegacyofleo. I’ll aim to share a selection so people can see what everyone has been up to.
Thank you for wanting to take part – I really look forward to seeing what people do. Please also share this project – this isn’t specific to baby loss, please feel free to take part on behalf of anyone.
– J x