Coping with Babyloss during the Holidays: It's a magical time of year: snow may be beginning to fall, ornaments are hanging delicately from Christmas trees, and decorations appear across neighborhood lawns. Maybe you've begun to light Chanukah candles, or this is the time of year you'd usually be looking forward to Kwanzaa. Maybe Christmas has always been a special holiday for you.
Unfortunately, for women and families who have experienced babyloss, the holidays may bring a new and unanticipated struggle with grief. Regardless of when you lost your baby, the usual joy of the season may now be accompanied by tinges of pain, yearning, sadness, and loss. It is common for parents who have experienced a loss to feel many difficult feelings during the holidays, and there are a number of understandable reasons for this. Consider that triggers are everywhere: commercials depicting happy families, children sitting with Santa at the mall, the sweet surprise of gifts, family get-togethers, and more. When you were expecting, you may have looked forward to this time of year and experiencing it for the first time with a new addition to your family. Unfortunately, you may now be wondering how you'll get through until the New Year. Here are some tips to help you get there:
1. Consider ordering a special ornament in honor of your baby. Creative and crafty websites like Etsy feature many sellers who specialize in memorial ornaments, and there are many designs to choose from. If you have footprints or a picture of your baby, you may be able to have a copy etched onto an ornament. If not, you can choose something meaningful and symbolic, such as a birth stone, an animal totem, or meaningful words. Many women have found comfort in the words from ee cummings' famous poem, I carry your heart. You don't need to limit yourself to an ornament. Browse etsy for other memorial items: treat yourself to a memory box, a locket to carry cremains, or art for the wall. Open up the discussion with your partner: what would they like to have in the house during this time of year to honor your baby?
2. Seek support. You may feel as though you're the only person dreading this time of year, but there are many people across ages and stages who struggle with grief during the holidays. Look online for a support group to connect with others, or give yourself the gift of therapy with somebody who specializes in talking about your unique form of loss. Therapy provides a safe space dedicated to your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to babyloss during this time of year, and a knowledgeable therapist can help guide you through the more difficult days.
3. Create an anti-holiday. There's no reason that you have to celebrate the season this year. Maybe there's another part of your life that you'd like to celebrate. You and your family and friends can choose to skip the usual Christmas dinner festivities and/or create a new holiday focused on something else that is meaningful in your life. If you want to be distracted from your grief, why not celebrate Cinco de Mayo on December 25th? How about inviting your friends over for Friendsgiving? Maybe consider a silly movie festival! This is an opportunity for you to create a new way to experience this time of year, and the options are only limited to your imagination.
4. Seek spiritual and religious resources. Some families who experience babyloss may feel abandoned by God, and their spiritual foundation may feel shaky. If you're feeling this way, reach out to a trusted minister or spiritual counselor. Seek comfort in holy texts or liturgies, and consider attending religious services if you feel the community may be supportive. If not, explore different and new approaches to religion that you may not have considered before. Create a holiday project of learning about a new spiritual practice like mindfulness meditation, or visit a Buddhist temple. Try opening your mind to other perspectives on life, death, and the mysteries of the universe.
5. Try giving back. Believe it or not, many individuals who have experienced loss find great comfort in focusing on service work this time of year. You may look for opportunities to cook meals for families whose children are in the hospital for the holidays (Ronald McDonald House is a great choice!), or to serve meals at a soup kitchen. You could collect clothes and gently used items to donate to homeless shelters, or create some survival kits for those without shelter by putting travel-sized toiletries, snacks, gift cards, or other useful items in quart-sized ziplock bags to hand out. If you don't want to pound the pavement, consider sending a donation the survivors of California's recent Camp Fires, or to a relief organization like The Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. Altruism is the practice of giving to others, and research has pointed toward its beneficial effects on well-being. Give it a try.
6. Write your grief. Do you have a grief journal or scrapbook? Now is a good time to start. Write out your feelings, ideas, poetry, triggers, reactions, and more. Capture your Grief is an annual project that unites mothers affected by baybloss for thirty days with different prompts designed to bring out self-expression in the aftermath of grief. Many women I've talked to have found it extremely therapeutic.
The holidays can be tough, but hopefully you can find some comfort beginning with one of the above suggestions. Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? Create your own, and share it with others in your life who want to learn about how to support you and others like you during this time of year. I promise, it'll help you feel better.