Surviving the Holidays After the Death of a Child
Holidays are not always an easy time for every family. Just the thought of Santa Claus and holiday music on the radio can make some people want to curl up in a ball on the couch and wait until after the New Year’s Eve ball drops in Times Square. But, realistically, that isn’t possible.
We have families to care for, jobs to get done, and lives to keep living. So how can we make it through the very first holiday season without our child without the grief creeping up on us? We have compiled a list of tips to survive the holidays from a few families who also walk the path of grief:
1. First and foremost, while this may be the simplest, it is the most important. Know you will survive. Your first holiday without a loved one is not easy, but others have done it and you will too.
2. Find someone you can speak to or even meet with during the holiday season. Maybe this person has already gone through a few holidays without a loved one before and can give you some helpful tips that have worked for them. Speaking to someone in your position can be a bigger help than you might realize.
3. Do not think that this holiday season must follow the “traditional” holiday activities that you used to do when your child was alive. If the household agrees, skip putting up the tree, decorating gingerbread houses, making holiday cookies. Instead, just relax with your loved ones.
4. Spend the holidays with people who let you talk about your child. You need to be able to say your child’s name and recall memories if you want to. Your stories about your child are wonderful legacies. You should be able to tell them again and again and again.
5. Online shopping can be a great way to get gifts if going to malls or stores and being around crowds is too much. Be easy on yourself.
6. For some families, getting away from the house worked better for them than staying home. Maybe spending the holidays at a hotel, in another state, at the beach, or even on a vacation may be a help.
7. Make something to give to those who have given you help throughout the year. One family made tree ornaments with “In Memory of Daniel” stamped on them and gave them to friends that Christmas.
8. Decorate the grave. Put up a plastic Christmas tree with lights. Sometimes being busy with decorating the grave gives a feeling of doing something for a child we can no longer hold.
9. Do something in memory of your child. Donate to a charity or fund in his/her memory. Or volunteer for an organization in your child’s memory.
10. If there is a special candle lighting service at a bereavement support group that you attend, belong to, or one near you to remember the children in your area who have died, I recommend attending it. Doing something in memory of your child with people who understand the pain during the holidays especially can be incredibly therapeutic.
11. Spend time truly reflecting on what the holiday season is about. Everyone around you will be rushing around busy with the “traditional” activities of the holidays, but maybe you will want to excuse yourself from them. Give yourself permission to sit out of certain festivities you would normally attend. Record your thoughts in a journal. Take some time for yourself.
One day you will wake up and it will be January 2. You will have made it past the holidays, past the festivities, past all the things you thought for sure you were not going to make it through. Although you may cry, feel down, feel defeated at times, somewhere within you, you will be stronger, you will feel that core of new steel.