Thanksgiving was the first family holiday to arrive after my daughter died
It was the first time we gathered together since the service we held to celebrate her brief life of 33 days. I prepared my heart for how the day might feel, but I don’t think any preparations could have made me feel better about entering a house full of children without mine to hold.
The irony of gratitude fell heavily as I could not keep my heart in one piece that day.
The smiles and jovial attitude of the day was directly opposed to what I could muster. Of course, I was grateful for my daughter, grateful to have met her, to have held her. But, to watch my beautiful nieces and nephew run around the house felt like daggers through my severely broken heart.
It became fervently clear and important that I protect my heart during sensitive events such as the holidays. Typically during the holidays, we are surrounded by joyful people, and that can make it even harder to muster energy when I am not feeling especially filled with joy.
Related: 10 Simple Reasons the Holidays Hurt
Since that first holiday, I have given myself permission to protect my heart
I choose to be surrounded by loved ones who can be understanding to the unpredictability of my grief. I make sure to have a conversation with the host prior to the event about how I might feel and let them know that I may be unable to stay for the entire gathering.
It has provided tremendous relief to learn that those who love me — although they may not completely understand — will support and accept me as I am. As for those who don’t empathize, I would suggest reconsidering where to spend such a sensitive day. Be prepared on these days that you may experience unexpected emotions.
That first Thanksgiving was 7 years ago now. And while I still wake on holidays desperately missing my daughter, I have integrated some strategies to include her in the day and am thankful to my family for doing the same.
Here are some ideas to honor your child during the Thanksgiving season
- Plan a good deed
- Buy someone else’s coffee
- Send a thoughtful card
- Rake the neighbor’s leaves
- Integrate your child throughout the day
- Wear a special piece of jewelry or item that represents your child
- Create a space to honor those who have passed
- Light a candle
- Have picture or item on display
- Include your child’s name in the blessing of the meal
- Organize a craft activity to do with your family
- Collage a scrapbook page
- Paint kindness rocks
Related: Art Challenge: Rituals to Remember
Also, know that the best-laid plans can fall aside if you wake up and just cannot pull yourself out of bed. It’s ok to feel that way. You are not failing nor are you disappointing anyone. There are no hard fast rules about how to proceed with such sensitive and widely broadcasted holidays after your child has died.
Your only job is to take care of you and your heart
Be gentle on yourself. Listen to what your heart needs and follow through accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to make it to a family gathering, some simple self-care should help to ease some of the burdens from your broken heart.
Self-care can include:
- Upon waking, create a simple gratitude list
- Listen to soothing music
- Practice a guided meditation
- Write a letter to your child
- Eat only delicious foods
- Perform yoga stretches
- Draw a warm Epsom salt bath with essential oils
- Watch a movie, snuggled under a blanket
- Reflect on the day and journal your emotions
I will forever wish that your child was here to hold and watch grow. During this Thanksgiving and the approaching holiday season, I honor your child and I honor your heart. I hope the holidays are gentle to you.