A check of the calendar or a walk down the aisles at the store will tell you that the holidays are quickly approaching. From Halloween to Thanksgiving and Christmas, holiday buys from candy, costumes and holiday decorations are ready to be purchased. Many families are already planning their holiday celebrations as are many work holiday parties. For many people all of this brings excitement, joy and happiness while for many bereaved parents it can bring feelings of sadness, of missing out, of longing. Facing the onslaught of emotions that come with the holidays can be an added stressor for bereaved parents. How does one handle the holidays and include their child in it if they so wish?
For social situations with family and friends, you can attend or not attend anything you wish. If you plan on attending, have an “exit strategy” in place in case it all becomes too much. Tell your host in advance that you would love to attend but want them to understand that you many need to leave early if it gets to be too much. If you are not up to attending, don’t. You can offer an explanation if you wish just saying that after the death of your child, the holidays are extra emotional this year but you look forward to attending next year and thank you for inviting me/us.
Christmas came four short months after my son died. The thought of traveling and of being anywhere but my own home was far too stressful. Kindly, I made it clear to my extended family that if they wanted to have a family Christmas, it was going to be at my house. Cooking gave me something to do, something to occupy my time and my hands. All our family came and filled our otherwise sad home with good memories, with love, hugs, laughter and peace. For four months our house felt heavy with sadness and our family gathered together filled it with love and just enough joy.
For some people, that may just be too much. Some may prefer going somewhere else, getting out of the house and a change of scenery. Some may prefer to just stay home and have a quiet Christmas/Thanksgiving. There is no one right way to do this. The right way is what brings you peace and calmness when you think of how you want any social gatherings to be.
To honor your child at the holidays, you could consider making a donation to an organization in your child’s name, hanging an ornament on your tree for your baby, signing your Christmas card with their name. There are so many ways you can include your child if you wish.
I remember the first Christmas after my son died walking through Target and seeing the most adorable reindeer outfit and so many other cute baby boy Christmas clothes and toys. Standing there in quiet tears saddened by the fact that my son was not here to buy these for, I bought them anyways. Into the cart went the reindeer outfit, other clothes, Christmas blankets, toys, diapers, wipes and so much more. I bought for him like he would be here on Christmas. And I gave it away. A friend knew a mom who was struggling and her son was the exact same age as my son should have been, four months old. I gave it all away to her. It was the best feeling in the world for me that day. The longing to buy all the things I had been planning on buying for my son was satisfied but even more so, someone who really needed those items received them.
Every Christmas, our kids get a new ornament to hang on the tree and my daughter takes finding her brother in heaven an ornament with his name on it very seriously.
Our Christmas card always includes his name, in birth order, sandwiched where it should be between his big sister and little brother.
Holidays can be a stressful time anyways, even more so as parents grieving the death of their baby. May you know you are not alone, that your baby will always be remembered and that you find moments of joy, encouragement, peace and love this holiday season.
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