So many are feeling the extra ache of missing as we walk through the holiday season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, another New Year. A year without those we love. Many are looking for a survival guide. How? How do we get through this first Christmas without our baby/child…this first Christmas…or the twenty-first? Much gets easier with the passing of time and the healing of wounds. One thing doesn’t leave…it’s the missing. And, it washes over us anew with each season.
What does happen, is that the missing becomes familiar, like a part of your family, your memories, your celebrations, your heart. The missing is almost part of you in time, welcomed even, because it means someone was here…someone precious and valuable and worth the remembering.
So…here are some “tips” but by no means are they an answer. There are no quick fixes to ease the longing brought about by the holiday season. Nothing I can say to make all the wrongs right. This group isn’t about trying. It’s simply about knowing that we aren’t walking alone. Knowing, there’s hope and grace for this journey along the way. And, beautiful gifts…even in the missing.
I miss my daughters, Faith and Grace and my son, Thomas. And, I miss my mother. Life and especially Christmas will never be the same without her…without them. But, I’m still grateful for the love in my heart, the dreams I still dream, the ornaments on my tree, and the memories I hold dear. Most of all the truth that because Jesus came, I will see them again.
1. Give yourself grace. Take care of you. If you can’t “do” Christmas like you’ve always done or do it at all, just do what you need to. Be you. Protect your fragile heart.
2. Do something…or many things to honor the memory of your baby/child…to include your child in the celebration. Ornaments on the tree, donating to a favorite charity, buying presents through Operation Christmas Child or Angel Tree, ask others to join you in doing random acts of kindness. Decorate the cemetery or a special place in your home…or don’t. And, don’t feel guilty if none of those suggestions happen or fit your plan for where your heart is.
3. Survival mode is ok.
4. Laughing and joy is ok, too. If you do want routine and tradition and find comfort in it, there is nothing wrong with still celebrating. Don’t allow guilt to steal joy. And, cry when you need to.
5. Take a hot bath, read a good book, go slowly. Don’t plan too much or put too much pressure on yourself. Make sure you have some quiet time to refuel. Grief is hard work, And, it’s happening even when we don’t realize it, taking much of your energy. Eat healthy, exercise, and rest…plenty. (Some good reading can be found in Isaiah 61…if in the hurt, you need to be re-introduced to the One who came to save you. This is the Jesus I know.)
6. Some people take a little trip, escape for a bit together, and change it up. That’s helpful for some.
7. If you do a tree or don’t, that’s ok. Whatever you need to do to survive is just fine. There are no rules and should be no judgments.
8. If you choose to celebrate with extended family and friends, they may follow your lead. If you are comfortable talking about your baby, they may feel at ease, too. Often they don’t mention your child or say the wrong thing, because they are uncomfortable or unsure. That isn’t always the case. Plenty of people said the “wrong” thing or nothing at all to me. For many years. Be prepared for that.
9. No one is or should be allowed to judge your “performance” in grief. Don’t allow that to rule your thinking. They aren’t walking this. You are.
10. Spend some time with your safe people…people you can talk about the missing, your baby, or nothing at all. Spend time with those you love the most…just being. Time with your husband/partner. Time with your other children, if you have other children. Time with anyone else close to you, and understanding of your grief.
One other thing…this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are no rules in grief. No handbook. No answers that fit all situations or hurts. So. Much. Grace. Is. Needed. But, it is good to remember that often…the anticipation of a day is much worse than the actual day. Not always, but often.
Sending so much love and prayers for all of you today and in the coming year, dear mamas, dads, and families.