Hey friends! Let’s talk about holiday grief after pregnancy loss.
The winter holidays are supposed to be one of the happiest times of year. Unfortunately, the holidays provide a different feeling for those of us who grieve the loss of a baby.
Making it through the holiday season felt utterly unbearable after we lost our son. All I could see was a missing table setting that no one else saw, longing for the one baby that no one got to hold and play with. Some years, I had to spend the holidays in bed and cry the day away. Other years, I felt like hosting dozens of people for a family feast.
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I struggled to find ways to cope with my grief through the holidays because many of the articles I found weren’t geared toward pregnancy and infant loss. The advice suggested doing things that your deceased loved one used to do, or cook their favorite meals for the holidays. Those kinds of things don’t resonate with moms like us because we didn’t get the opportunity to experience memories like that.
So here are some tips that I picked up over the years.
Take some time to be alone.
There’s nothing like some alone time to recharge during the holidays. This can be an exhausting time of year, so even a few minutes to yourself can help get through the day.
I also learned that people aren’t always comfortable with talking to me about my baby. They either don’t know what to say or they’re trying to avoid saying something that will trigger sad feelings. Alone time in the morning gives me time to reflect on those happy memories talk to my son on my own time.
If you need ideas for ways to enjoy more alone time, I made a list of some fun things that you can alone.
Know your triggers and avoid them.
Triggers… oh the damn triggers. Triggers are the things that make you sad because they remind you that your baby isn’t here. For me, I’m triggered when I see newborn babies or when I walk past the baby section in Target.
One of my cousins was pregnant with her first son at the same time I was pregnant with Joshua. We were actually 2 weeks apart from one another. I love her son so much, but I would be a liar if I say he doesn’t remind me of my son when I see him.
Make a list of your favorite things to do and check them off throughout the holidays.
Keep the list somewhere handy so that you can access it easily. I saved my list in my Notes app on my iPhone.
Here’s my short list – it includes some things I can do immediately to feel better and some things that I have to schedule time for.
- At home facial
- Binge watch Scandal & Grey’s Anatomy
- Date night with hubbs
- Mani + Pedi + Facial
- Celebration Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory
- Spending time with my parents
- Spicy Garlic wings from Buffalo Wild Wings
- Watching a chick flick at the movie theater
- Shopping for makeup
- Booking a vacation
- Writing an article or bullet journal entry
Talk to someone about your holiday grief after pregnancy loss.
Therapy is one of the most helpful resources I use to get through the holiday season. I actually double up on my sessions this time of year. You don’t have to seek out a therapist; you can talk to anyone – a mentor, spiritual advisor, a friend, or your spouse.
Also, I’m trying out this new app called GoodGriefApp. It’s a social networking service for people grieving the loss of a loved one. I just started using it myself, so you can definitely expect a review coming in the next month or two.
Give yourself grace to grieve without feeling guilty.
Fact: some people will have expectations for you and how you manage your grief. They expect that after time, you’ll just feel better and your grief will be gone. I remember telling someone close to me that I was having a bad day and she said, “Really? I thought you’d be past that by now. Caroline, you’ve got to move on from this.”
Those words cut deep and really stuck with me. For a while, I felt guilty for still grieving my son. I had to remind myself that I manage my grief on my own terms and no one else gets to determine that timeline for me.
Since grief can be more present during the holidays, I want you remember that you should give yourself the grace to grieve on your own terms, without any feelings of guilt.
Spend a day (or three) pampering yourself.
I try to schedule a pamper day at least once a month, but life happens and other things take priority. If nothing else, I will go once every other month. Pamper days are huge for me when I want to feel better. I can take care of my 4 R’s all in one day: Rest. Refresh. Release. Repeat.
The thing I love most about pamper days as a way to handle holiday grief after pregnancy loss is that you can define what the perfect pamper day looks like for you.
For me, I start the day with a yoga at home, then head to the spa for a deep tissue massage, facial, and full body wax. A smoothie at my favorite cafe comes next, followed by a many + pedi, and finally a solo trip to the movies to catch a romantic comedy and indulge in all the butter-drenched popcorn I can handle. #balance
Your pamper day can be anything you want it to be – even doing an at-home facial and manicure yourself, then binge watching Netflix in bed all day. The only thing that matters is that it puts you in a happy place, even for a short while.
Take a vacation.
Go out of town for a few days and enjoy a nice vacation. Getting out of the house for a while can do the body some good. Head south for a beach or enjoy a wellness resort for a few days. Vacations are a good way to do my four favorite things: Rest. Refresh. Release. Repeat.
You can take a solo trip (one of my favorite things to do), a Baecation with your Beau, or a girl’s trip. Whichever you choose, the only rule is to have as much fun as you can, even though it might be hard.
It’s okay to leave an event early.
I’m the queen of leaving early when I’m ready to go. One year, I was invited to a family game night at a cousin’s house. I was excited to go and was in great spirits all day. When I got to the house, it was a completely different story.
One of my cousins who I hadn’t seen in a while, had me mixed up with someone else. She gave me a big hug and said, “Hey! How’s the baby? Did you bring him or is he with your parents?”
I froze and didn’t know what to say. Her husband came over and said, “Honey, you’re mistaking her for another cousin.” I still stood there like a deer in headlights. It felt like the entire room stopped to wait for my answer, and I was suddenly freezing cold. Naturally, I ran to the bathroom and cried for what felt like an eternity, then left before the games even started.
I’m sure my cousin didn’t’ mean any harm. I wasn’t angry with her, but I couldn’t pull myself together enough to finish game night. Sometimes, things happen that are out of our control. Leave an event if you suddenly don’t feel up to staying there. Better yet, have an exit strategy before you even get there.
Write through it.
The heartache, the healing, and the in between – write about all the things.
Writing has been an amazing outlet for me over the years. Even though I created Parents of an Angel in 2019, I actually started writing about my experience before I was even released from the hospital. It’s so therapeutic; I love going back to my journals immediately after my loss to see the progress I have made over the years.
Grab your favorite notebook, some feel good music, and pen the day away.
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Ask your support system to send you messages and videos of encouragement.
I know you’ve heard dozens of people say, “let me know if there’s anything you need.” Well, here’s a way to finally take them up on their offer. If you worry that they might say something that causes more harm than good, send them this list of things to avoid saying.
You can either give them a deadline so that you can receive all of them by a certain date, or give them a time frame to send it, like the week of Christmas for example.
P.S. They can get some ideas of things to say from this article too.
Create a new tradition to honor your angel.
You can hang a stocking stuffer with your baby’s name on it. I know some moms who do this to collect toys and donate them to a children’s hospital on Christmas. You could also sponsor a family and provide their holiday meal in honor of your angel.
You can also light a special personalized candle at dinner time to remember your baby.
Editor’s note: The candle I shared above ships from the UK. Allow for enough shipping time to receive your candle in the US.
Volunteer with an organization you’re passionate about.
Another way to handle holiday grief is by donating your time to a non-profit organization. I found a direct connection between giving back and feeling fulfilled, even when I wasn’t having a good day.
If you need some ideas for things to do or a list of organizations to partner with, check out my post about Healing through Giving Back.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of othersGhandi
Say no, and say it often.
Listen, friends. “NO” is a complete sentence. It’s okay to decline event invitations to protect your peace. One year, I cancelled the whole Thanksgiving holiday. My husband and I skipped the family dinner. We watched football all day and went to a wing spot for dinner. I didn’t have the emotional energy that year, so I chose not to engage.
This goes back to knowing your triggers and avoiding them. I also suggest saying no to things so that you don’t feel obligated to do what you don’t feel up to doing. There’s no need to give a long explanation if you don’t want to.
It’s okay to cry it out.
Take time to just let it out. Sometimes, nothing will make you feel better until you give a good cry to grieve the loss of your baby. Queue the ugly cry and let the tears fall for as long as you need to.
We spend so many hours of the day being strong and keeping it together. This holiday season, I want you to balance your laughter with a healthy cry whenever you want to.
Let your tears be the water that nourishes your soul.Unknown
Rest. Refresh. Release. Repeat.
These are my favorite things to do during the holiday season. You’ll notice that the tips from this article fall within one of these four categories. Getting through the holiday season is tiring for anyone, but especially for someone carrying grief with them.
Rest when you can so that you don’t run on empty. Refresh by doing all the things that bring you comfort. Give yourself time to enjoy the people and the things that make you happy. Despite how you feel, you deserve happiness, and you deserve the chance to enjoy that happiness too.
Release the things that you don’t cultivate positive energy – triggers, people, activities, etc. Don’t feel guilty about it either. I give myself permission to be selfish during the winter holidays; taking care of myself is so important. I want you to give yourself permission to do the same thing as you work through holiday grief after pregnancy loss.
Repeat, well you know, go back to rest and do it all again.
Rest. Refresh. Release. Repeat.Caroline J.
Honestly, finding the best way to handle holiday grief will truly come from trial and error; you just have to find the right things for you that year. I don’t believe in the saying, “time heals all wounds,” but I do believe that over time, you learn the best ways to cope with that pain.
I hope that these tips add some comfort to this time of year because I get it. It’s hard to be happy when a piece of your heart is in Heaven.
What are some other things that you to that help you get through the holidays? Leave a comment below.