Remembering Your Loss During the Holidays
The holiday season is considered a happy time for those who are not grieving. For the parent who has lost a child, there is a mix of raw emotions that make it difficult to celebrate the way everyone else is. At family gatherings and holiday events, the joy and laughter may be dreaded rather than enjoyed. Because the holiday season tends to center around children, this may bring added pain for the grieving parent.
During the holiday season, you may find yourself feeling sad and empty and alone, rather than sharing the feelings of thanksgiving and the joys of Christmas and all the family togetherness. Your family and friends may not recognize the pain you are experiencing, which may add to your grief.
Society may encourage you to join in the holiday spirit. All around you are reminders of seasonal celebration, and you sometimes feel pressured to join in the festivities. There are no simple guidelines that will take away the hurt, but the following suggestions may help you cope a little better during this stressful time of the year.
Give Yourself Extra Attention and Love
Holidays can be exhausting even at the best of times. Acknowledge your pain. You miss your baby; it hurts! Find quiet time for yourself when you don’t have to be happy, friendly, or cheerful. Be gentle with yourself. Direct your attention away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and focus on YOU! Take a bubble bath, listen to soft music or get a massage.
Take Charge of Your Life
The loss of your child may make you feel out of control. The death of your child forever changes your life. You have experienced the most horrific loss. You are lost in a sea of grief, but you do not have to allow others to control what you do.
Do what is right for you during the holidays. Stay focused on family traditions that provide a source of strength and comfort. Consider making new traditions that are important to you and your family. Remember, some holiday activities may be necessary, but many can be eliminated. You cannot only cut back on your activities, but can change your routines as well. Listen to your heart and do those things that feel right to you.
Acknowledge Your Pain
During the holidays, it is helpful to express your feelings. Your emotions will be more volatile and you may not be able to turn them on or off. You need to release those tears, so give yourself permission to cry. Ignoring your feelings will not make the pain go away. You do not have to be “jolly” all the time. Also, when you share your feelings with caring friends and relatives, you will feel better. It’s good to be “loved on.” Validating our feelings allows others to support and care for us.
Share With Your Partner
To celebrate your relationship, plan some time together and share special feelings that say “we are still a family.” Enjoy a candlelight dinner or a walk in the park. This will enrich your commitment of love and life together. The need to talk about your feelings and needs may seem greater during the holidays. You need each other to get through this difficult time.
Plan Your Activities In Advance
Grieving takes energy. Pare down your commitments and expectations. Lower your expectations for the holidays. Decide in advance what you would like to do. It gives you something to look forward to and a reason to turn down other invitations (those that may be a problem or you just don’t feel like attending.) It is important to eliminate the unnecessary and reduce the holiday pressures on yourself and others. By ordering gifts online, you can lessen the pain of facing holiday crowds. Accept friends’ offers to help. They can wrap gifts, address cards, shop or clean. Graciously accepting such a meaningful gift can be mutually beneficial.
Focus on the things that are really important to you and your family and on what you feel like doing instead of what well-meaning friends or family may have planned for you. Be “selfish.” As you become aware of your needs, share them with your friends and family. You will improve your ability to cope with your feelings and may enjoy the activities you do decide to do more. Be realistic and you won’t feel like you have failed. Don’t be afraid to say, “No!”
Do Something Special To Remember Your Child
Please consider some of these suggestions:
Have a stocking for your baby who has died. Invite other family members to share in filling the stocking.
Light a special candle in his/her memory.
Buy a special Christmas ornament for your tree in their memory.
Sign your greeting cards in a way that feels right to you even though it may seem strange to others. You may wish to include an “In Loving Memory Of…” message.
Take a wreath or flowers to the gravesite.
Participate in a memorial service.
Write a letter to your child. This is an excellent way to express your feelings that you may not feel comfortable saying out loud to anyone.
Have a family photo taken and include a small stuffed animal in memory of your baby.
Purchase something decorative that will help you remember – angel, jewelry, …
And remember that it’s all right to have some good times! Laughter and enjoyment are still important parts of living. At the very least, treat yourself to an occasional smile.
Now, take this time to figure out what traditions are important to making your holidays tolerable, or maybe even enjoyable, in the midst of your grief. Try to answer the questions on the next page to guide you to the holiday you want.
Circle one holiday:
Christmas – Thanksgiving – Mother’s/Father’s Day
DOES IT MATTER?
For each item on the Holiday Job List try to answer these questions:
WHY do you do it? WHERE? WHEN? HOW? WHO?
Holiday Job List: