Self Care: Surviving the Holidays

August 25, 2016
The angel we bought for our tree to remind us of Colin.

It seems impossible, but the winter holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away! The prospect of the holidays can be daunting if you’ve lost a child or if you’re aching to share the holidays with a child you’re dreaming will one day join your family. I was very nervous about the holidays after Colin died. Our Thanksgiving and Christmas that year were low key compared to our usual celebrations. We hung the many ornaments that had been bought for him before and after his birth on the tree, so he was always there with us. On Christmas Eve, it was so hard to watch another family with a baby play the Holy Family during the singing of “Silent Night.” We knew if Colin had lived, that would have been our family up there. Tears streamed down my face as we sang, but it was important to us to attend services that night.

One of the things I remember being the most helpful for us during those first holidays without Colin was to not set our expectations very high. Grieving is emotionally draining, of course. It was important to make sure that we were gentle with ourselves. If something was too much, we said no. We needed to take it slowly, to allow our family to adjust to living and celebrating without him. We were very lucky to have supportive family and friends who expected nothing from us and told us that if we didn’t want to celebrate at all, they would understand. But we still had to celebrate for the sake of Colin’s brothers. And we did it all while remembering our sweet angel.

Here are some things you can do to make it a little easier to get through the holidays:

  • The MOST important: feel free to say “No.” If there are certain things that you are just not ready for, don’t do them.
  • Remember your baby with ornaments or decorations.
  • If your baby was here for the holidays in the time before he or she passed away, look at the pictures from those times
  • Make your celebrations as grand or as humble as you need them to be.
  • Ask friends and family for help. If you normally host a holiday dinner, ask a family member to take the responsibility for this year if it is too much.
  • Allow yourself to grieve and to feel sad. Just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean that you have to pretend that everything is OK.
  • If your baby has a grave site, decorate it. I have seen many pictures of the most beautiful grave site decorations from my friends who have lost children.
  • If you attend church, purchase a floral arrangement in memory of your baby. Our church sells poinsettias at Christmas and we always get one in memory of Colin.
  • Consider doing something different than you normally do for the holidays. Taking a trip or going out to eat, instead of staying home or preparing a meal.
  • Give yourself the gift of time. If it is the first year after your loss, know that it will be difficult, and know that it does get better.

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