How you can get through the Holiday season
Christmas can be one of the hardest times of the year, for those of us who have lost a child. There are constant reminders everywhere you go, the shops are full of Christmas stuff, people seem to be talking about it everywhere and with Christmas adverts on the TV, you just can’t escape it.
Christmas is the ultimate family holiday time and children are at the heart of it, so how can we still celebrate without our child?
- Did Christmas used to be a fun, loving and joyful time for you but now is full of sadness and heartbreak.
- Maybe you feel lost, empty and alone and that no one understands what you are going through, as they carry on with their Christmas preparations and festivities, just like nothing has happened, whilst you feel your world has ended.
- Do you want to hide away from the world and wish you could just go into hibernation for the holiday season?
- As it gets closer you start receiving Christmas cards which trigger you, maybe they make you angry or so deeply sad that your child’s name is not on the card and you end up sitting in a pool of tears.
- When people just constantly talk about the festive season and how wonderful Christmas will be.
- Does it feel like an earthquake going through your body?
- Do you just feel anger, sheer bitterness and feel like you just want to scream in their face?
- Do you think it will get easier, but maybe it just appears to be harder and harder each year to cope with holiday season, especially when everyone else appears to have ‘moved on’.
Then maybe it’s time to reach out or try something different, I've been there and come through the other side, I waited 20+ years to release some of my grief and I don't want you to hang onto yours for that long(even if you don't realise it).
- Are you dreading Christmas itself? despite or because you have other children?
- If you have other children, you may feel forced to go through the motions, give them presents and hugs, whilst feeling like you are not the mum you want to be with them?
- You try to tell yourself ‘ it’s just one day, don’t think about it’ but your emotions take over and you just want to cry, run and hide away from the world.
- Despite your best efforts, there’s always a shadow lingering and a heaviness in your heart. You may still buy presents for everyone, but it makes you cry that you can only give your child flowers for their grave.
- Maybe you think you will spoil Christmas for everyone else, by being sad and feeling so emotional and just feel you want to avoid friends and family as you are not good company.
- Do you wish you could just be sedated over the Christmas period?
- Do you now hate the holiday season that you once loved so much?
- Maybe you now hate everything about Christmas and just think roll on January, as it’s everywhere you look and can feel like torture as it’s all so family orientated.
- Is Christmas season making you feel ill?
Do you feel you can never have a happy Christmas again?
- Do you try to have a good Christmas for your other family, but inside you are aching beyond words.
- Have you tried ignoring it, but just found yourself being driven mad by the constant reminder for weeks and weeks.
- Maybe you have tried counseling, but just talking about it made you feel even worse or like me, you were just not able or ready to talk about it, that’s the beauty of the method I work with, you don’t need to delve into all the details of what you want to let go of.
- Are you trying to please everyone else, smiling whilst inside you feel like your heart is broken into a million pieces.
- Maybe you are using tactics, like keeping overly busy, drinking or taking medication to numb how you feel and get you through the day.
Maybe family, friends and even your therapist may have tried to persuade you to celebrate Christmas, you may put a brave face on for them, but if you are not dealing with how you feel, it will never work or feel right to you.
Please don’t be forced into doing anything that doesn’t feel right, but equally don't hide from your grief as like mine did it will get out somehow.
It helps to have a safe place where you can come and talk honestly with people who ‘get it’ and are there to lovingly help, support and guide you on your journey through grief.
There are many great support groups and I would love you to join the Sadness to Sunshine community, where I would like to lovingly guide and empower you to move through and process your grief, so you can better cope with and eventually actually be able to enjoy life, even if you can’t believe that will ever be possible at this moment in time.
I remember my first Christmas after Adam died in the August was unbearable, I was in such pain and not opening up to it at the time. It should have been a joyous time with my beautiful 4 year old boy, who would have been starting school the following year and who had his whole life ahead of him, but instead, I was broken hearted.
One of my best friends, who was like a sister to me asked me to come to hers for Christmas, but I couldn’t leave my parents alone on Christmas day, so I spent a very somber Christmas day with them. On Boxing day I went to my friends and that changed my state, as I did what I had been doing for months, put a mask on to the world and pretended I was ok, as I could not face the pain I was feeling when I actually accepted what had happened.
It was like being a different person, I was putting on an act to get me through every moment. However, it did work so doing something different can be a good thing as it interrupts your energy state. Can you get away for Christmas or just have a different routine to make a change.
The next few Christmases blurred as we are talking over 20 years ago and without my little boy seemed a little pointless, 6 years later it was my second Sons 1st Christmas and it was then when I had started to heal and began creating new rituals to remember Adam and include him in the celebrations with his brother. When Adam was at playschool he made a hat similar to an Indian headdress but with a Holly leaf instead of a feather, this always took pride of place on our Christmas tree every year after, so Adam was always there as part of my Christmas celebrations.
Let others know that it’s okay to reminisce If you want to talk about your child, let people know, they may be keeping quiet for fear of upsetting you, it could simply be a lack of communication. Sharing stories often lead to stories that will make you laugh, which can actually help you manage your feelings on those special days. These special days should be joyful and fun times so use some of the ideas above to remember these special times with love and happiness. Review the traditions you follow to see if they are right for you now and make new ones to do on those special days. Creating these new traditions and rituals can transform the way you feel about those days.
If I were to ask you what you needed this holiday season, what would you say?
Probably, just like me, you were brought up to believe that holidays are fun and joyful, but now that you are grieving, it can make the holidays a painful and exhausting experience. Take the time to find healing activities and listen to your heart and do what feels right for you.
It may be hard but try to communicate this to those who are also affected, if you can not face talking about things, can you write a letter to explain how you are feeling and how they can best support you through the holiday season and maybe ask what they would like for the very significant people in your life, such as your partner and other children if they are old enough to understand and if what you both want is miles apart can you find a compromise?
Be flexible in your thinking, as you do practical and sensible things that help you deal with things, but be aware of your emotions too as they are key and are actually your best guide.
I am running a free online 7 day guided journey into healing which can help with this and you can register to receive this via daily emails.
Here are some things you can do to support yourself through this holiday season and beyond, feel free to let me know in the comments anything you do that helps or let me know which of these have been most helpful.
♥ Trust that Grief is Part of Healing
Time doesn't heal the pain associated with a loss, it's what you do what that time that matters. Grief is the process by which you heal, experiencing the pain-rather than constantly trying to escape it, like I did at first can actually help you feel better in the long-term as I discovered on my journey into healing.
♥ Set Healthy Boundaries
You certainly don't have to force yourself to face every holiday event or celebratory tradition, its your choice. However, if attending a tree lighting ceremony or participating in the office gift swap is likely to bring about too many painful memories this year, be willing to say no. Other people may try to convince you to participate, but you certainly don't have to try and please everyone follow what is in your heart.
♥ Focus on What You Can Control
There are a lot of things you can't control about the holidays. You may be subjected to Christmas music in the waiting room of your doctor's office or whilst shopping, you may overhear your co-workers constantly talking about their holiday plans with excitement. While you can't prevent those things from happening, with a technique like the one I use, you have a way of dealing with anything that those situations trigger.
Think about what you can do to lessen the heartache when you can. It's ok to limit your decorations or shop for presents online only. Pick a few things you can do to assert some control over the holiday season and keep in mind, that life goes on for other people and it's ok that they're happy to celebrate this year, but you choose what you do, or don’t do, to celebrate.
♥ Plan Ahead
Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. So while Thanksgiving dinner may only last two hours, you could easily spend three weeks dreading it. Create a simple plan for how you'll get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish. Share this with your family, friends and anyone else who is relevant in the plans.
Often, it's helpful to create an escape plan. Drive yourself to holiday functions or ride with a trusted family member/friend who will take you home whenever you want. Just knowing you can easily leave at any time, can help you enjoy the activity much more than you would if you felt stuck.
♥ Allow Yourself to Feel a Range of Emotions
The holidays can bring about a wide range of emotions. You might feel joy, guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or you shouldn't be laughing. If all you want to do is cry, let it out but try to look at ways to help you deal and learn to be guided by your emotions and your heart.
♥ Take care of yourself Focus on self-care (Physically, Mentally, Emotionally and Spiritually) including things like eating healthy, exercising, limiting alcohol and or drugs, getting adequate sleep, finding a way to process how you are feeling and meditating to name but a few.
♥ Find a Way to Honour Your Memories
Create a special way to memorialize your child. Whether you decide to light a candle every night or eat your loved one's favourite food, honouring your child can serve as a tangible reminder that although the physical bond is broken, your soul bond never will be and they remain connected to you in your heart forever.
Purchase a fragrant candle and create a ritual as you light it. You can use this to reflect on your child’s life. Rituals have a beginning and an end. That is why lighting and extinguishing a candle is symbolic.
♥ Create New Traditions
Don't be afraid to create new traditions this year too. It's ok to get creative and do something a little out of the ordinary. You can also alter old traditions and make them fit better with the new phase in your life.
Review what you have done. Think about what you can simplify. As you focus on traditions, be mindful of those things you can handle and those things you want to change. Let others know the changes you intend to make.
♥ Do Something Kind for Others
Even when you're in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness can be really good for your spirit. Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people at a nursing home make holiday crafts if you're up for it. This can also be done in your child’s memory at a nursing home, homeless shelter or charity they supported, or which helped them.
Create a memorial fund. This can be done in your child’s name. Contact your local bank or a foundation to help you and then let others know how to donate to the fund.
♥ Ask for Help
Don't be afraid to ask for help when you're struggling with the holidays. Reminding loved ones that you're having a rough time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support. Look for support groups or contact a professional to help you deal with your grief.
♥ Keep a journal for venting
This can become an outlet to share what you are going through. Then reflect on what you wrote, using a tool like EAM you can let go of thoughts and feelings that are no longer serving you and connect to a better feeling and more positive thought or feeling.
If you keep your journals, you can always look back and see how far you’ve come.
♥ Journal or use poetry to memorialise your child.
You can write love letters to your child or journal to them and tell them what’s happening in the family, about the day you have had just like you would if they were still physically here, they already know how much you miss them and are sad they are not with you physically.
Poems have great meaning to those who write them and those who read them, either use something that resonates with you or write one from your heart (it doesn’t have to be shared with anyone else unless you want to).
Create a memory book. This can contain photos or be a box with mementos and reminders of the connection you shared with your child, it’s somewhere to go to when you are having those low moments.
♥ Wear something your loved one gave you.
You can just wear this for you or let others know of its significance if you wish to share.
♥ Keep an item that belonged to your child.
These objects are physical items that connect you to your child and can help you with acceptance. These transitional items hold special meaning and serve as reminders that you are still spiritually connected with your child.
♥ Read a card or letter given to you by your child.
I still have a couple of items Adam made at his playgroup on display in my living room.
♥ Watch a home video/DVD of your child.
When watching this you can remember the happy times you shared with your child and fire the neurons which will create more happy memories, if you cry let it out and use any techniques like the one I share with my clients, to release any negative thoughts/feelings and lock in a more positive one.
♥ Express your feelings through music
Whether you choose to sing a song or write one, the creative expression can be healing. Sit back and listen to a song that is meaningful to you and brings you strength or a favourite one of your childs.
♥ Buy a gift for yourself
This gift can be one your child would have liked or what they may have bought you.
♥ Create a memory quilt which can be used to cover a bed or chair
You can include family and friends in this activity if you choose. A quilt can be made of digital photos transferred to fabric squares and you could use some of your child’s clothing.
♥ Give yourself permission to leave early from a gathering
If you went to a family gathering and felt ill after you have arrived it would be perfectly acceptable to leave, so if you don’t feel ‘right’ at a gathering it’s perfectly fine to say so and leave if you feel you need to.
♥ Shop online
If you don’t feel like going out shopping, especially during the Christmas period when there may be many painful reminders around, consider catalogue and Internet shopping for presents you are buying.
♥ Do or don’t send Christmas cards
If you don’t feel like it, or if it is a task that just feels too difficult, we have the wonders like Facebook now, where you could wish all friends and family a happy Christmas, alternatively sending a card and including your Angels name may be right for you.
♥ Let others know that it’s okay to reminisce
Let others know if you want to talk about your child, they may be keeping quiet for fear of upsetting you, it could simply be a lack of communication. Sharing stories often lead to stories that will make you laugh, which can actually help you manage your feelings on those special days.
These special days should be joyful and fun times, so use some of the ideas above to remember these special times with love and happiness. Review the traditions you follow to see if they are right for you now and make new ones to do on those special days. Creating these new traditions and rituals can transform the way you feel about those days.
How to feel connected with your child on special days
Your child will be in your heart forever, just because they are physically not with you doesn’t mean their soul isn’t still with you. When you wake up on those days, spend a few minutes either meditating about how you feel and sending messages to your child through meditation. You can also spend this time journaling to your child, what you loved that they used to do for you or whatever you want to convey to still feel connected to them.
You can reminisce about your child with those who are compassionate and are happy to just be there and listen to the stories you wish to share.
As with everything else in life, there is a yin and yang balance, not talking about your child and bottling up your thoughts and feelings is one side and constantly talking about your child is the other; neither of these are ideal. Create a balance that suits you, releasing any resistant thoughts and feelings and then you will be able to share openly from the heart about your child, but still have perspective and harmony in your life.
One of the things I want to see change, is people become more open about loss and that it is not seen as a taboo subject, that few want to discuss.
Dealing with ‘Special days’
These days can highlight the special connection between a parent and child (no matter how old the child was). Parenthood is a bond like no other. On these special days, it can highlight who is not there with you.
Return to the 4 C`s to deal with everything that can come up on these days. Firstly, think about how you can CARE for yourself on this special day or get your partner or children to take care of you depending on your circumstances. If you will be on your own, prepare the day before, make sure you will have something nice and nourishing in the house to eat. Do whatever you can to help you relax or have fun.
COMMUNICATE with your partner, any other children you have and/or close family and friends about what you would like to do on that day; they might want to take you out to show you how much they love you. However, going out to eat in a packed restaurant with everyone else celebrating the special day, when you just feel like crying because you miss your child, could be the worst thing for you, so you need to communicate how you feel and what would make you happy on that special day, or at least make it endurable.
Think about how you can CONNECT with the child you have lost; would you like to visit their gravesite with some flowers or go to a favourite place of theirs and just spend some quiet time there. Again, communicate this to your partner and any other children you have. Maybe you can be taken there first to spend some special time connecting and then be taken to have a family meal with the other children you have (if you have them), where you could share favourite memories and family stories around the dinner table and CREATE a special day with all your children, or, if it is just you and your partner now, go home for a special meal and share your precious memories together, your hopes and desires for the future.
Dealing with thoughts and emotions on those special days
It is very likely that Christmas time will trigger thoughts and emotions. Be aware of this and have your way of dealing with anything that comes up, imagine the thought in writing and then imagine a big fat rubber erasing this thought for you. If you have worked with me, you will have the technique I share with clients to release any unwanted thoughts that arise. The method, in short, is just releasing the thought you don’t want and turning it into a more positive one, and then we replace your unwanted thought with the one you do want. This will raise your vibrations and change how you feel to something lovely.
I know it’s hard especially this time of year, but please try to smile instead of cry, your Angel would want you to be happy, they know you still love them and would do anything to have them here, but they are with you in your heart, just open your heart to loving yourself too & those you still have with you physically.