The Christmas Ornament Project


Christmas Ornaments Become A Trauma Trigger

As I wrote about here, holidays are tough for trauma kids. I noticed after our first Christmas with our older kids, that tree trimming was a huge trigger because it emphasized all the years they’d missed with us as our younger kids oohed and ahhed over their ornament collection from years past. Each ornament had a memory or special story. My parents had also had a tradition where they gave an ornament to each child every year. Our older kids were clearly in an ornament deficit.


The Ornament Project

That’s when I decided to mount the Ornament Project. I sent out a message to everyone I could think of that read:

It’s a tradition for Melissa’s parents to get an ornament for the kids every year. The missing ornaments from past years for John, Kayla, Grace, and Ty really stir up a lot of grief and sabotage their sense of belonging. We’ve decided to fix it! On Christmas morning, we’d like to present them with a large box of ornaments…one for every year that they weren’t with us. As friends and family who have loved and supported them during their transition into our house, we’re inviting you to participate in this project by sponsoring an ornament. Please do not feel pressured if you are receiving. We just wanted to extend the invitation as wide as possible. The ornaments don’t have to be expensive or fancy. We thought it would be cool if you sent a little note of encouragement with it. Here are some housekeeping notes.

          • You may sign up for as many ornaments as you want.


        • Please mark each ornament with the name and year (even if it’s just with a marker).


        • In lieu of a physical ornament, you may just send $5/ornament, and I’ll shop for you.


        • Please let me know if you have any questions and thanks again for loving our kids so well!

In the message, I also included sign up and delivery deadlines and directed them to a SignUpGenius where they could claim an ornament. Within 24 hours all of the ornaments were claimed! With 3 of the kids each having over a decade of missed Christmases with us, that was impressive. While everyone was out buying ornaments, I got each of the kids an ornament storage box. The actual opening of the ornaments was a bit anti-climatic (especially considering how proud of myself I was for pulling it off), but there was unspoken, deep appreciation in each of their eyes. 20131224ornaments

Now, every year, each of the kids gets to pick 3 ornaments from their collection to display. You can, of course, adjust the number for your number of kids.

What have you done to help fill the tradition gaps for your children?


Melissa Corkum and her husband, Patrick, live in Maryland with their 6 children. Our 2 bios entered the world in 2003 and 2005. We adopted a toddler in 2009 from Korea and three, unrelated adolescents (then ages 11, 13, and 14) in 2012 from Ethiopia. Melissa fills her days taxiing kids, homeschooling, networking, blogging, reading, teaching wellness classes, coaching other mamas, and advocating for more services to keep their family together – generally not using her engineering degree. We run a small non-profit, the Grafted, that connects the Church (people) with orphans and widows in need and are particularly passionate about better pre-adoption education and post-placement services for families. You can find them at,, and



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  1. This is a cool idea! We adopted first and had a biological children second, so the missed years weren’t really noticed. But one year at an antique store my son found a “Baby’s first Christmas” ornament from the year he was born and pointed it out. Naturally we HAD to buy it for him! It even had a little baby that looked just like him. We love placing that one on the tree. It’s such a sweet reminder of his babyhood, even if he wasn’t with us for it.

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