The holiday season is supposed to be a time of happiness and giving. It is the time of year where people typically get together with family and friends. They enjoy a nice dinner, spending time together, and exchanging gifts. Trees are decorated and stockings are hung. Kids are excited about the prospect of Santa bringing presents.
But what about those of us who also dread the holiday season? We think about those in our life that are no longer with us. The ones who should still be here, but are not. We are left feeling some grief during the holidays.
I have conflicting feelings during the holiday season. I do feel joy and I love making the season special for my children. On the other hand, I feel sadness because our daughter, Jasmine, is not here with us. She would have been two this year. I always wonder what she would look like now and how she would interact with her siblings. Would she have eyes like my son or hair like my other daughter?
This time of year is also hard because of the memories associated with it. It was in December, two years ago, that we were travelling to Florida to meet with a CDH specialist. We were full of hope and ended up leaving with more questions than answers. Because of the way things ended up with Jasmine, these memories pop up on my timeline and add to my grief during the holiday season. If you are unfamiliar, read more about Jasmine’s story
What is the best way to deal with grief during the holidays? There is no correct way and no one size fits all. We all grieve differently and must do what works best for us. Here are some suggestions on ways to help you cope with grief during the holidays.
I am not a mental health professional and am not giving medical advice. This post is based on my own experience with the loss of our daughter, Jasmine.
Table of Contents
Be Kind To Yourself
This sounds so simple, but needs to be said. We are often our own worst critic and can be hard on ourselves. We feel like we should be moving on already and do not give ourselves time to just be sad. Embrace how you are feeling and let yourself get the feelings out. Do not beat yourself up for being sad or not getting into the holiday spirit.
At the same time, try to not let yourself get so overwhelmed with grief that you cannot go own. We have periods of time where the grief can be overwhelming. Just know, these periods are not forever and you can push through them. The grief does not ever go away, but it does change over time.
If you need to be around family and friends to feel better, then spend time with them. If you need to be alone, then spend time by yourself. We all react to grief during the holidays differently. It is okay to say no to seeing your family or friends if you just are not up to it.
Taking some time to write or draw your feelings can also be helpful. Do something that you enjoy to help take care of yourself during this difficult time.
Prepare Yourself Ahead of Time
If you know a certain anniversary or date is coming up, prepare yourself for the feelings that may come. Our instinct is to push them away, so we do not have to be sad or angry. Sometimes the feelings get so bottled up that we explode and release them. In my experience, it is better to prepare myself ahead of time for this.
For instance, as I mentioned earlier, December is a hard month for me. While it is not the anniversary of when we actually lost our daughter, it is the time when we got more bad news about our daughter. And it will always represent a season when Jasmine is not with us. I have found that I tend to bottle up my feelings, so I do not have to think about them. Then I have one night where it all just comes out.
Now that I am two years into this, I know this night is coming and have prepared for it to happen.
Admittedly, you cannot always plan ahead for this. I know sometimes feelings can pop up out of nowhere and catch you off guard. It can be helpful though, to identify the certain times of year that your feelings are stronger and more likely to come out.
Include Them in Your Celebrations
This was a big deal for me after we lost our daughter. I knew I wanted to include her in our holiday celebrations, even if she was not physically here with us. We bought her a stocking with her name on it. We hang this up with the rest of the stockings. Jasmine also has several ornaments with her name on them.
Though they are not physically here, we always carry them with us. They are still a part of the family. We can still celebrate their life and memories.
There are so many things you can do to include the people you have lost. Some ways include lighting a candle, buying a special ornament, including their stocking, or setting a place for them at the holiday table.
Think of a Happy Memory
Not every memory we have of our loved one has to be sad. Although I do have a lot of sad memories around the holidays, I try to think of things regarding Jasmine that are happy moments. I never got to meet my daughter, since she was stillborn. What I do have are moments of feeling her move around and kick in my belly. I have moments of seeing her on the ultrasound. I have an amazing 3-D picture of her from my MFM office. I have the memory of getting that positive pregnancy test. Little things that I have a happy association with.
For those that lost a family member or friend who was older, you probably have many more happy memories to choose from. Hold onto these. Let yourself feel sad, but don’t forget the happy memories either. Tell happy or funny stories about your loved one. Help keep their memory alive in a happy way.
Thinking of these happy moments helps keep me from getting completely overwhelmed with the sadness.
Know When to Ask For Help
While many of us can deal with grief during the holidays on our own, be sure to ask for help if it gets too overwhelming. If you usually cook the holiday meal, but just do not feel up to it, ask for help. If you don’t feel up to shopping or participating in exchanging presents, let people know.
Perhaps you just need someone to come keep you company and be a listening ear. Do not be afraid to ask for the things you need. It seems like a lot of people have trouble asking for what that need. We often wait until it is too late to ask for help, if we even ask at all. We end up doing everything ourselves, even when we do not feel like it. This only increases stress and frustration.
I have found that most family members and friends are more than willing to help when asked. Many of them simply do not know what to do or what we are needing. Be clear and tell them what you are struggling with. There is no shame in asking for help.
If you ever feel like hurting yourself or others, please seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is open 24 hours a day. You can always call them at 1-800-273-8255.
I would love to hear about the different ways you honor a loved one during the holiday season. I love seeing the creative ways that people help to keep the memories alive. Please post in the comments below.
If you have also experienced pregnancy or infant loss, I have put together a list of ways you can remember them during the holidays.