Surviving the Holidays After you Lost a Child

Growing up, Christmas time was always my favorite time of year. I always looked forward to the holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday shortly after). I always looked forward to spending time with my family. When my husband and I got pregnant with our first son Nathan, Christmas time was perfect. The first time I felt Nathan kick was on Christmas Eve. I was so excited and said it was an early Christmas present from my sweet baby boy.

What made the holiday even more special that year was that my brother and sister-in-law were also expecting their first child and due a couple months before us. Everyone in our family was excited as we imagined what it would be like the next year having two boys close in age celebrating their first Christmas together. They were going to be best friends. My nephew was born a few months later. Ten weeks after, Nathan was born. He aspirated meconium when he was born and passed away three days later. Our family and friends were all blindsided by the news that our sweet baby boy would not be coming home with us. My family was having a hard time balancing grief and joy. We were all thankful to have my nephew Earthside but heartbroken that Nathan was gone.

We buried Nathan in my hometown a few states away so it was hard being away from him physically but also hard to go home and visit so we didn’t for a while. Even though I did my best to be strong, Halloween came along and my grief hit me hard. My son wasn’t dressed up as anything for his first Halloween. I watched my family celebrate as my nephew experienced his first holidays. I watched all the moms in my due date group plan the holidays and talk about gift ideas for their children. It was a wake-up call that the life that I had imagined for years wasn’t going to happen the way I had expected. I wanted nothing to do with my favorite time of year. I couldn’t listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies. Commercials with family get-togethers broke my heart. My heart hurt to go shopping in the store and see families shopping with their living children. My husband and I decided to stay home that year. It was what our hearts needed at the time.

We are approaching our 4th Christmas without Nathan. My grief still exists. It will never go away. We have been blessed with two children since Nathan passed away so we are celebrating the holidays and remembering Nathan at the same time. It’s a bittersweet journey. They help heal my heart in so many ways but I will always wonder what life would be like if Nathan was here with us too. We are going to spend the holidays with family this year and will be spending time with my nephew. We may not get to see him interact with Nathan but he talks about him often. It also warms my heart to see all of the cousins play with each other.

I know there are so many families that are struggling this holiday season. If you are new to this journey and find yourself struggling, you are not alone. I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas that helped me, especially that first year.

 

1. Acknowledge that the upcoming holidays may be hard emotionally.

Everyone grieves differently. Some people find the days leading up to the holidays are harder than the actual day itself. I am usually one of these people.

 

2. Set realistic expectations for yourself and be gentle with your heart.

If you don’t feel like attending certain celebrations that’s ok. Maybe you don’t feel like sending cards or decorating a tree. It’s understandable if you don’t feel like it but it’s also ok if you do. Just make sure you are doing what YOU want to do.

 

3. Find ways to remember your baby.

There are so many things you can do to help make memories that still include them. Some suggestions are:

* Buy an ornament for your tree with your babies name on it or something else that reminds you of them. 

*Buy a Christmas gift for a child from the angel tree.

*Hang a stocking and invite friends and family to send your baby cards or letters.

*Put the cards in their stocking and open them on Christmas.

* Take a framed picture or a stuffed animal and have Santa pose for a picture.

* Do random acts of kindness.

* Donate to a charity in your child’s memory.

* Light a remembrance candle.

 

 

4. Talk about your child.

Share memories you have of them. Talking about them helps keep their memory alive.

 

5. Surround yourself with people that love and support you.

Sometimes people can get uncomfortable with your grief and can say things that hinder your progress, even if it’s well-meaning on their end. If there are people that are pushing you to “move on” or “get over it”, remember there is nothing wrong with the way you are grieving. This journey is yours and yours alone. There are people out there who will love and support you. Those people are amazing.

 

6. Take care of yourself.

Not only is grief hard on you emotionally but it’s hard physically and spiritually as well. Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and eating properly. Try to exercise. It helps relieve stress. I took A LOT of walks to help clear my head. In fact, I set a goal to walk the distance it would take to reach my son by Christmas since we didn’t go home to visit. I walked over 750 miles over a few months. I was able to walk and gather my thoughts and I felt like it helped me relieve my stress.

 

7. It’s ok to ask for help. 

If you find yourself struggling with daily tasks it’s ok to ask someone to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. A friend or family member may help you out around the house. It’s also ok to meet with a grief counselor.

 

 

Remember that most people eventually enjoy the holidays again. That may seem like an impossible thought, especially if this is your first year. You will never get over it, but things do get better with time.

 

 

 

This was a guest post written by a strong warrior mama, Megan.

GET TO KNOW MEGAN.

 

Megan is currently a stay at home mom with three children (a son who would be 3 1/2 but is forever 3 days old, a 2 year old daughter, and a 5 month old son) and two yorkies. After her first born son passed away in 2015 she is passionate about sharing his story and reaching out to other bereaved parents. She loves walking and spending time outdoors with her family. She also loves watching hockey and is a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan.

 

 

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How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

Okay mamas, let’s admit it: we all have suffered from mom guilt from one time or another. Maybe it’s because we bottle fed instead of breastfeed or let our kids eat Fruity Pebbles for dinner– whatever the case, the mom-guilt just happens. We are all human.

Mom-guilt hit me full-force when I was struggling with my postpartum depression.

 

How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

 

As moms, we not only want the absolute best for our babies, but we want to BE the best FOR our babies. Let me tell you right now, mama: that is NOT always going to be possible (or realistic!) If you’re struggling with postpartum depression right now, you already know what I mean by feeling the mom-guilt— it can be so debilitating and exhausting! But, I can promise you one thing: it will not last forever.

I’ve managed to learn a few things along my journey with PPD and I want to share them with you.

 

How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

 

Admit that you need help sooner than later

If you believe that you have PPD, let me tell you something mama– it’s way better to seek help now than later.

I will admit that I waited too long to seek help and it was a lot harder for me to get back to being my old-self.

I also learned that it’s perfectly fine to admit that you need help! It doesn’t make you a bad mom!

 

How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

 

Stop falling into the traps

There are so many traps of motherhood– believing that we need to always be physically and emotionally present for our children may be ranked number one on that list. It’s very easy to get caught-up in these feelings, it’s even easier to guilt ourselves into thinking that we are a “bad mom.”

When we struggle with PPD, it’s incredibly difficult to feel like we are doing “our best” as a mom. The truth is, many days, we don’t even feel like getting out of bed and getting dressed, let alone plaster on a happy face to take care of tiny humans.

It took me over two years to realize something: I will never be the perfect mom. I will never be totally available for my kids 24/7– things may happen completely out of my control. I won’t always be able to make my kids happy. And all of that is perfectly okay.

You are struggling with PPD and in this moment of your life, it’s okay to not be totally available, it’s okay to not be happy all of the time. Remember: you are still human, and it’s okay to not be okay.

How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

Find your tribe

Postpartum depression can feel like you are the only one in the world going through it. I want to reassure you, that is the furthest from the truth.

It is possible to get through this, and finding your tribe makes postpartum depression so much more bearable to get through.

 

How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

When you find your tribe, other women that you can connect and relate with, you will find so much support with your PPD– you will know that you are not alone. It’s also essential to get out and talk with other moms and to vent about how shitty motherhood can sometimes be (I won’t sugarcoat that, honey.)

I think it’s critical to have at least one mom-friend that you can call whenever the proverbial shit hits the fan. We need to know that we’re not the only mamas struggling in the trenches of motherhood.

 

Do it for your babies

You need to get into the mind-set that your babies need you and they need you to be a healthy mama.

Perhaps you feel guilty whenever you practice self-care (again, another pesky mom-trap) but you need to know that taking time for yourself isn’t only beneficial for you, but for your babies.

How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

The same goes with reaching out for help– it’s all part of that self-care love that you, as a mama, need to practice.

Remember: you need to be the best mama that you can be for your babies. They need you. They love you.

 

Know your worth

Mama, you have to know your worth in this world, and that is this– you’re an awesome, bad-ass mama that can get through anything. Now is the time to say, screw those people that want to judge you, they don’t know you.

How to Manage the Mom Guilt from Postpartum Depression

I want you to start to focus on you. I want you to start to eliminate all of the garbage from your life– whether it’s a toxic relationship, social media, or self-loathing, I want you to eliminate all of that and focus on yourself.

You are so much more than you give yourself credit for, and it’s time for you to start to acknowledge that!

 

Those are some of the ways that I stumbled through my mom-guilt while I was struggling with PPD. I have to say, that I’ve really come a long way– the mom-guilt is no where near as strong as it used to be. Maybe I needed to grow more as a women, or maybe I needed to grow more as a mother, but whatever the case may be, I know I was able to push through it thanks to close support and of course, this blog. <3 so thank you, my trusted readers! You have given me the outlet I needed.

Now, I want to hear from you– have you experience the mom-guilt? What was it, and how did you deal with it? Leave me a comment or message me.

 

 

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How to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression

It’s easy to put off getting treatment for postpartum depression or anxiety when your a busy mom but unfortunately, having no time isn’t the only reason for not seeking treatment. One huge reason may be that moms don’t know where to even go or to talk to for help. And if you do find someone to talk to, when will you go? Who will watch the kids?

 

disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links which, when you purchase an item, can help me continue to run my blog (yes, it cost money to keep this thing going!)

Thankfully, thanks to modern technology, help has come a far way from sitting in your therapist’s office on a chaise lounge. Now, you can get help from the comfort of your own home. And in your PJs, if you please.

I’ve put together a few ways to get online help for postpartum depression

 

How to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression

Online therapy

Online therapy is a thing, and yes it is legit.

You can sign up for online therapy in the comfort of your own home and have the ability to speak with your therapist through a live chat or e-mail.  There is no waiting for a referral from your doctor or sitting in a stuffy waiting room.

Online therapy is great because:

you don’t have to leave your house, so you don’t have to worry about the stress of finding someone to watch your kids.

somedays we don’t feel like leaving the comfort of our home and interacting with people.

you don’t sit face-to-face with a therapist, so it appears a little less intimidating.

you get a therapist fitted to your needs.

you can arrange your sessions on your time.

you have a plethora of resources at your disposal– much more than a therapy session, you get workbooks, meditation, and much more– available to you whenever you need it.

 

How to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression

 

Send a text

Sending a text message can literally save your life.

When your feeling overwhelmed, talking to someone on the phone may feel like an impossible task, but texting is a modern convenience that moms can take advantage of.

Here are numbers you can text for 24/7 help:

IN THE US:

Text HOME to 741741 for any type of crisis and a trained counselor from the Crisis Text Line will respond 24/7.

CANADA:

Text HOME to 686868

 

You can also text the Postpartum Support International’s Warmline at 503-894-9453 for information and to get support and resources close to where you live.

 

How to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression

 

Make a phone call

There are numerous hotlines you can call when you need to reach out for help.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

US:

1-800-273- TALK (8255)

CANADA:

1-833-456-4566

INTERNATIONALLY:

International Bipolar Foundation has a list of international phone numbers.

Join a Facebook support group

There are Facebook support groups out there for every mom that needs help and encouragement. I know how tough it may be to want to open up to someone about the feelings you are having and especially to people you don’t even know. But a Facebook support group is great because you can be as active (or inactive) as you’d like.

Here are some Facebook support groups for PPD and anxiety:

A New Day Peer Support Group for Moms with Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group

PPD and anxiety: Moms Helping Moms

Life After Baby (PostPartum Depression/Anxiety Support)

 

How to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression

 

Download an App

In this ever-so-growing-technology World, there is literally, an app for that. Busy moms can now download an app at to have for their own convenience and help.

Here are some apps you can download for PPD and PPA:

PPD ACT- The app will be a way for us to collect information for the study, which has two parts. You will be given feedback about your responses to the questions. We can point you toward doctors in your area who specialize in evaluating and treating women with postpartum depression.  Available on iOS devices in Australia, Canada and the US and on Android devices in Australia and US.

MGH Perinatal Depression Scale (MGHPDS)- a free iPhone application designed to refine how women around the world are screened for postpartum depression (PPD). The app includes questionnaires about mood, anxiety, sleep and stress at important time periods during and after pregnancy. The questionnaires will identify which specific symptoms are most critical in the diagnosis of PPD in women ages 18-45 who are pregnant or up to 12 weeks postpartum. 

Announcing the MGH Perinatal Depression Scale at the App Store- The MGHPDS smartphone app includes digital versions of perinatal depression screening tools including the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) as well as other instruments which measure relevant symptoms associated with peripartum psychiatric illness: sleep disturbance, anxiety and perceived stress.

 

How to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression

Message a Friend

It’s always nice to have an open support connection with a friend that can be your emergency contact in times of need. This friend should be someone you can absolutely trust and depend on to help you when you really need it.

With the vast array of information at your fingertips, it can be easy to find help for postpartum depression, but please always consult your doctor, especially if you believe your PPD is getting worse.

 

 

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Postpartum Depression Resources for Military in the KMC

When you’re military living overseas, it sure can be overwhelming– the culture, language barrier, and of course the normal stressors that go along with being so far away from family and close friends.

When we moved to Germany almost one year ago, I was in the throws of struggling badly with postpartum depression. We had two kids under two and I had a really tough time adjusting to living overseas, so much so that it affected me as a wife and a mother. I quickly became so depressed that I would lounge in my PJs all day, sit my boys in front of the TV, and just pray that frozen food or cereal would be okay for dinner that night.

Deep down, I knew I was struggling, but I didn’t even know where to begin to ask for help.

Unfortunately, mental illness such as postpartum depression, is viewed as a stigma… which is also a wide range of reasons why moms don’t speak up about struggling with postpartum depression.

I talk about just a few of those reasons in this previous blog post.

Mental Health Resources for Moms in the KMC

 

After going through my own bumpy ride of PPD, I realized how difficult it can be to access resources when you really need them the most– especially when you move to a different country.

Luckily, being in a military community, resources for mental health can be obtained through a variety of channels as well as connecting with amazing and supportive people. With the help of  Kelsey W. Hurlburt, Resource Coordinator in the Kaiserslautern military community, I have listed the various resources that can be helpful for those who may be suffering with postpartum depression…as well as other mental illnesses.

 

 

 

 

KMC PPA & PPD Resources

Emergency Numbers:

                Germany Emergency Response*: 112 (fire & medical), 110 (police)

Veterans Crisis Line* (available to dependents 24/7):

From DE #: 00800 1273 8255

From US #: 1-800-273-8255 (opt 1)

From DSN: 118*

 

Live Chat: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

US National Suicide Hotline* (24/7):

00-1-800-273-8255

Hospital Services – Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC):

GPS Address: Dr. Hitzelberger-Strasse, 66849 Landstuhl

LRMC Info Desk (24/7):

CIV: 06371-9464-4100

DSN: 590-4100

 

LRMC Emergency Room:

CIV: 06371-9464-6322

DSN: 590-632

 

Mental Health Services:

Landstuhl Behavioral Health (LRMC Ward 1C, directly above Family Practice)

CIV: 06371-9464-5847

DSN: 590-5847

Hours: Walk-in M-F 0730 – 1630, after hours go to LRMC ER to access on-call social worker

Landstuhl Child & Family Behavioral Health (LRMC Ward 1D)

CIV: 06371-9464-6311

DSN: 314-590-6311

Ramstein Mental Health (RAB – Bldg 2121, 3rd Fl)

CIV: 06371-46-2390

DSN: 479-2390

Hours: 0700 – 1630, walk-ins OK, after hours call will auto forward, request to be connected to on call mental health provider

 

Military Family Life Consultants (MFLC)

                Ramstein:

CIV: 0152-2421 1233; 0152-0266 3352; 0176-6933 3243; 0151-5674 8179

Hours: M – F 0800-2000

 

 

KMC Mental Health Resource Guide

Confidential services (no records kept), not intended for emergency/life threatening situations, general counseling only

Army                    

Landstuhl Post: 0152-2479-2650

Pulaski Barracks/Daenner Kaserne: 0170-369-3292

Rhine Ordnance Barracks (ROB): 0175-601-1985

Sembach Kaserne: 0175-792-3332

 

Military One Source*

Live Chat: http://www.militaryonesource.mil/confidential-help

24/7# CIV: 00-800-342-96477

24/7# DSN: 800-342-9647

 

Ramstein Chaplain

DSN: 480-6148

CIV: 06371-47-6148

Hours: 0730 – 1630, after hours call will auto forward, request to be connected to on call Chaplain  (walk-ins welcome)

Landstuhl Chaplain (Bldg 3764, 1st Fl, Between 4 Corners Info & Dining Facility)

DSN: 590-5713

CIV: 06371-9464-5713

Hours: 0800 – 1600 (walk-ins welcome)

 

                Parent & Outreach Services (Rhine Ordinance Barracks, Bldg 162)

CIV: 0611-143-541-9066

DSN: (314)541-9066

Hours: M – F, 0800 – 1700

*Indicates US-based service, not located in the Kaiserslautern Military Community

 

If you reside in the KMC, please share this so the respectable resources can be easily obtained to other mamas that may be struggling in silence.

 

If you are military in a different area, whether it be overseas or state side and if you would like to contribute to my upcoming Postpartum Health Military Resources Guide, please fill out the form below.

 

Remember mama, even in your darkest days, you are NOT alone. There is a tribe of mamas out there that know what it’s like and can offer you an abundance of support. We can get through this together!

 

 

A big thank you to KMC Resource Coordinator Kelsey W. Hurlburt for gathering these helpful resources for me.
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5 Essential Oils That Moms Use to Battle Stress

I love essential oils. I know, it’s crazy—  I never expected to be so into the whole oily thing but once I tried them, I wonder why I was always so against them. Really. They can do wonders, ESPECIALLY to help fight off the moodies and the stress life. Aka Mom Life.

*disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links which, when you purchase an item, can help me continue to run my blog (yes, it cost money to keep this thing going!)

 

I’m always on the hunt for (natural) ways to help reduce my stress…. and essential oils may be the best tool for that. I found 5 oily moms and I asked them which essential oils that they recommend to help battle off stress.

But first….

 let’s get to the very basics.

What are essential oils?

An essential oil is a natural product extracted from a single plant species. Not all plants produce essential oils but the plants that do, the essential oil may be found in the roots, stems and leaves. Once the aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a carrier oil to create a product that’s ready for use. *healthline.com

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that retain the natural smell and flavor, or “essence,” of their source.

 

How to use essential oils.

There are quite a few ways that you can use essential oils (contrary to what I used to believe, it does not include slapping some oil onto your body).

 

On your body.

When applying essential oils on your body, use a carrier oil.

It’s always a good idea to avoid putting an essential oil straight on your body– using a carrier oil will help avoid skin sensitivities because an essential oil alone is too strong to use straight.

I choose coconut oil as my carrier oil when applying essential oils on my kids or myself.

 

Diffuse them.

Buying an essential oil diffuser  was the best decision I made last winter. My kids went through bouts of the ickies, and diffusing oils like orange and oregano helped shorten the duration of their colds by so much.

Diffusing oils is a great way to have your home smelling amazing– without all of the yucky chemicals that candles or scented wax have.

Here is my favorite oil diffuser that is under $20! I use this in the our bedrooms.

 

Clean with them.

Ditch those yucky chemicals, because you can also clean with essential oils.

I use lemon essential oil in my steam mop, orange to polish wood surfaces and oregano to disinfect.

Okay, now let’s get to the good stuff.

 

 

5 Essential Oils That Moms Use to Battle Stress

 

 

 

 

1. Ylang-ylang/  YL ‘Peace and Calming’

5 Essential Oils That Moms Use to Battle Stress

Andrea says:

“ylang ylang is one of the key ingredients in Young Living’s “peace and calming” which is one of my favorite anti-stress oils.. when i have sleep problems it usually zonks me right out when diffused. So i pulled YY out of it because studies have shown it’s a great anxiety reducer and started using it specifically for stress/anxiety mixed with other complementing oils like Lavender or Tangerine”

you can purchase YL’s Peace and Calming below:

 

 

2.Peppermint/eucalyptus mix

5 Essential Oils That Moms Use to Battle Stress

Jamie says:

“This mix also takes my migraines away!”

you can purchase peppermint essential here here:

you can purchase eucalyptus essential oil here:

 

 

3. Orange

5 Essential Oils That Moms Use to Battle Stress

Molly says:

“Smelling orange essential oils gives me an instant boost of happiness. Orange smells cheery and clean and vibrant to me. I associate it with good memories of eating oranges fresh from trees in Florida as a child.”

you can purchase orange essential oil here:

 

 

4. Rose

5 Essential Oils That Moms Use to Battle Stress

Genni says:

“Rose essential oil is another fav. It’s feminine smell is known to elevate the mind and create a sense of well-being!”

you can purchase rose essential oil below:

 

5. Citrus mix {bergamot, orange, lime, grapefruit and lemon oil}

5 Essential Oils That Moms Use to Battle Stress

Jennifer says:

“I use a blend called Cheer up Buttercup with bergamot, orange, lime, grapefruit and lemon essential oils. It’s the combo of stopping to apply, then breathing in the sent to focus on positive thoughts.”

you can purchase the CHEER UP BUTTERCUP blend here:

 

So there you have it– 5 essential oils that moms use to battle stress. Will you try any of these? Let me know in the comments!

 

*Resource:
Healthline.com- What Are Essential Oils and Do They Work? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-are-essential-oils#section1

 

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