The holiday celebrations are just around the corner, stalking the bereaved parent like a grinchy thief in the night. But we will not be unprepared. We will not be blindsided by grief this time. We will arm ourselves with healing, self-care strategies and have a plan in place for the joy-stealing thief that is grief. We will plan for pain.
Plan to be creative when you feel uninspired and numb. Search Pinterest for d.i.y. holiday home décor ideas. Turn on some music and create something for your sacred space. Set a date with friends to attend one of those step-by-step painting (and sometimes drinking) classes. Laugh and get messy. Drink and be merry-ish. Can’t make anything and don’t feel social? Read a book under a blanket with a flashlight, or write in a journal.
Plan to make meaningful memories in honor of your child. You did not plan for this grief. You never planned for your child’s death, never, ever, ever. You planned for happiness and holidays, not heaviness and heartbreak. Plan to honor your child. Light a candle in honor of such a radiant soul. Set a special place card at the empty space(s) around your table. Create a special space to honor your child during the holiday season, buy an ornament, or hang a personalized stocking. Create a secret holiday ritual to honor your child that only you know about.
Plan to help others when you are hurting so deeply. Holiday grief can take down even the most seasoned griever. We know this. We must plan for this and find ways to lift our spirits, even when feeling so deflated. Volunteer for a local non-profit, and ask family and friends to give their time to help others in honor of your child as well. Donate to an online cause. Visit YouCaring or GoFundMe and search for a cause that reflects your passion, heart, and child. Gift a child who is the age that your child “is” and buy toys, clothes, and gadgets that you imagine your child would want. Help a needy family, a single mom or dad. Take food to your local animal shelter in honor of your child.
Plan to connect when you feel so isolated. Combat feelings of isolation by connecting with others within the child loss community. I asked a few of my bereaved besties: What activities keep your heart light when your feet feel so heavy?
- “When my feet feel heavy with some life struggle, I find that self-care helps to lift the grime off my skin and my day. Those activities vary from a hope-filled Hallmark movie, a phone call or get-together with a friend, a walk in nature, snuggling with my dog, soaking in my hot tub, star-gazing, and writing, to name a few. Helping others always lifts my spirits.” Anna Elizabeth, The Five Facets of Healing
- “Writing my heart out. No matter if it’s me sharing on my personal blog or in one of the hundred journals I have spread through my house, writing always makes my heart feel lighter. I also really enjoy other creative heartwork like drawing, creating pieces for my Etsy shop, and making space in my home.” Danielle Ridgway, Greywood Designs
- “Being creative, journal writing, photography, knitting, circus arts, talking with others.” Dee Anaya, Adventures of Grief Girl
- “Yoga for sure, writing when I have time (ha!). But mostly it is being with my family, wherever, whenever.” Franchesca Cox, author Facets of Grief
- “I read my daily devotional and journal my thoughts, experiences, feelings. Writing a blog (which I haven’t done a lot of recently) and posting on my Instagram page. Talking with others who have been through the same (or similar) journey – there are some amazing and inspirational loss mamas on Instagram who I now consider my friends. Praying in the moments of fear and heartache, handing it all over to the one who is in control. Listening to music, spending time with compassionate friends, a lazy day with my husband, and if I’m home in NZ or in Wales, a stroll along the sand of the beautiful local beaches.” Rachel Roberts, the Anahera Project
- “Writing. It is the most magical tool to reintegrate pain into words, often creating inspiration for both myself and for others. Yoga. Yoga re-centers my mind and body. It enables me to be in the present moment, feeling a sense of grounded-ness from connecting to my body, the earth and myself. Dancing. Swaying with my emotions, shaking out the pain and feeling my heartbeat helps me to feel a powerful rush of euphoria.” Lindsay Gibson, author of memoir Just Be.
- “Serving others! I started After Chloe in February 2015 and it has kept my heart light to help others find their lives through their grief journeys!!!! Many days I don’t want to get out of bed but my responsibilities to serve others keeps me going!” Melo Garcia, After Chloe
- “The activities that keep me going would be any project I am working on, be it a bigger project or a single angel drawing. I love being in nature. I look for my cardinal (Avery’s symbol), photograph nature, look for hearts, rainbows, and details in all the flowers. I love my angel’s garden in the warmer months and finding the meanings of the flowers I want to incorporate. Floriography is an amazing inspiration.” Tary Denz, Avery’s Garden
- “There are tools that I reach for when I feel the heavy weight of it all begin to set it. They don’t always work, but when one doesn’t, I reach back in and grab the next. For me, physical exercise has been a huge part of keeping my heart afloat. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, it triggers neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA, all of which combat depression. I love lifting weights. There is something about power and control that grounds me and shifts things for me. I’ve also made space for yoga, meditation and the practice of daily affirmation. Other tools in my box are nutrition, connection with others, creative endeavors (painting, writing, decorating), and writing. Self-care rituals like a hot bath, a cup of tea, a massage, getting fresh air, even just moving to sit outside are also so helpful…. and when all else fails, an hour or two of a great TV show or a movie can be a huge help to distract from the pain.” Tracie Loux, www.thehealingbreath.org
Plan for none of these activities to completely eradicate the effects of grief. The healing and the grieving last as long as the loving: forever.