December is filled with social events, holiday music, and decorations galore. You can find people running this way and that to complete the finishing touches of the season; holiday cards in the mail, gifts purchased and wrapped, stocking stuffers hidden until Christmas day. Yet when you are missing your child, these traditions can feel devastating and the twinkle lights only illuminate that which you cannot see.
Whether this is your first or tenth year without your child, my heart is with you. The holidays no longer feel like they did in the past and while every day without your child is difficult, there are so many additional demands during this season. It can feel overwhelming.
It’s ok to slow down, breathe, identify what you need, and create new traditions. In fact, I give you permission and encourage you to do so. Before getting swept up in the craziness of December, it’s important to determine what will comfort your already broken heart. Creating new traditions allows space to include your child in a way that feels best to you.
It can be a conflicting feeling to know the right way to honor your child any time of the year, and there certainly isn’t one right thing or one right way to handle grief during the holidays. The only right way is the one that feels right in your heart. Remember, your outward expression does not prove the love you have for your child so please relieve yourself of any guilt during an already trying time of year. Whatever you create (or decide not to create) for your child, is the right thing for you.
Some sweet traditions to include your child during the holidays:
- Light a candle at home
- Light a candle at church
- Hang a stocking for your child (fill it with letters from loved ones to be read on Christmas morning)
- Choose a new remembrance ornament or item each year
- Include your child’s name, photo, or symbol on your holiday card
- Buy a donation gift for a child of similar age
- “Adopt” a family for Christmas
There is no match to the feelings of warmth when another person acknowledges the child you miss so much, but it can often be hard for friends and family to know the right thing to do as well. It doesn’t seem fair that in your time of grief you must teach others how you want to be treated, but it’s necessary if you want support from your loved ones that actually feels supportive. It’s also ok to ask them to do nothing if that’s what you prefer.
Some simple ways for loved ones to include your child during the holidays :
- Send your child a letter for you to read (to be kept in their hung stocking)
- Donate to an organization in memory of your child
- Say your child’s name when speaking of your family
- Write your child’s name when addressing holiday cards & envelopes
And painfully, there are some who will be unable to provide the support that you so desperately need during the holidays. Some relationships will need gentle guiding and a conversation for you both to feel comfortable. But sadly, you may find that even after a conversation a loved one may not be able to provide what you need and it’s ok to step away from the relationship temporarily. Your emotional health is of utmost importance.
Be gentle on yourself this time of year. Your heart is tender and may need a little extra love. Spend time with those who can provide the support that you need and give yourself permission to create traditions that help heal your heart, not hurt it more.
What traditions have you created to honor your child during the holidays? What would you add to these suggestions?
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash