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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I Hope I Don’t Crush Their Spirit

I never thought I would be the angry mom.

I never thought I would become annoyed at the tiny things. Or impatient.

But I am. And it eats me up inside.

When I silently wish for them to hurry up with a task; when I unknowingly hurry them along with a story; when my voice sounds irrated because it’s the seventh-million time I heard “mom” in one day. I’m tired, I’m spent, I’m mentally, emotionally, physcially DRAINED. But it’s not their fault.

It’s not their fault and that makes it even worse.

I know I do it– I’m portraying annoyance and frustration. It’s all over my face. You can hear it in my voice. And as soon as it’s over, I pray to god that I don’t crush their spirit. I pray to god they walk away from my imperfections unscathed.

It’s so hard. It’s so SO hard. Mothering. Motherhood. Keeping these children alive, fed, busy, and all the in-between and behind-the-scene stuff that nobody, besides you, gets to see. The shit that people pretend doesn’t happen and nobody wants to deal with. The baby has a dirty diaper, the toddler is melting down over a candybar, the teen is having an attitude over nothing.

I often replay things that I say to my children and I want to cry. I realize how harsh I can come off or how I shouldn’t have lost my cool so easily. How can I do it differently next time? And I just hope I don’t crush their spirit…

Perhaps I’m being hard on myself; most of the time, as mothers, we are our own worse enemies. It’s true. I can never be the perfect mother or the calmest mother and I yell more than I should but, you know what?

I love them like nobody in this world can love them. Because I’m their mother. Despite imperfections, I try like hell to be the mother that they deserve.

Do I fall short? Hell yes. Most days, actually.

Is that normal? Hell yes. We are only human. Even mothers. As strong as we are, we are so imperfect. Which makes us perfect in our own way.

<3

 

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Thrive This Holiday Season: Eat & Drink for a Healthy Mind & Body

 The busiest time of the year is here, yet again! Decorations, shopping, gifts, parties, and food. The month of abundance (overabundance, to some) has arrived and I’m going to share with you my tips for eating and drinking to survive it all with a healthy mind and body.

The holidays stir up a wide range of emotions for many people. Whether you’re happy or sad, excited or anxious, joyful or depressed…food can either help you feel your best or really drag you down. What you eat can, and does, affect how you feel. And with the season tempting us with more sweets and alcohol than we are usually faced with, this time of year becomes the most challenging time of year.

In my 10+ years as a personal trainer and dietitian, I’ve learned quite a bit about eating and drinking during the holidays.

This comes from life experience working with clients and patients as well as personal experience overcoming my personal food struggles. The tips I share here are a collection I’ve gathered from my studies and my experiences. And I know that if you apply one or more then you will walk through this holiday season with a healthy mind and body!

 

 

 

 

 Set limits to your alcohol

Alcohol, although fun and festive, is a depressant. It depresses not only your mood but also your energy, your liver function, and your body’s ability to metabolize fat. If you know you’re going to an event and will be enjoying a few cocktails or glass of wine, set your maximum to three drinks. Make it a priority to begin with a glass of water and then a glass between drinks. This helps with hydration but also slows your intake. Carbonated water with a splash of lime is refreshing and tasty!

 

Enjoy dessert but don’t overdo it

The holidays seem to spike our interest in desserts as if they are exotic treats from far off lands that we’ll never see again. Prepared with magical sugar and made by tiny fairies so, yes, we must enjoy as many and as much as we can. Now. And then they pop up everywhere so we snag more and more until we eventually don’t care that we’ve eaten an entire dessert spread over the course of a few weeks. So as tempting and delicious as so many sweets are, I encourage you to choose and few and savor them.

Excess sugar can take its toll on your mind (hello mood swings!) and body (blood sugar spikes and drops really play a number on your energy) and therefore should be avoided if you want to thrive. It took me years to realize that we are capable of obtaining sweets 365 days a year so there’s no need to shove them all into 30 days. And honestly, many sweets are store-bought and not that special. I say go for the homemade goodies and enjoy a few!

 

 

Hydrate your gorgeous body

Water should be the primary beverage you are drinking all day long. Excess caffeine from sodas and coffee leave our bodies feeling wired yet tired. Not only do they displace our water intake but they give us a burst of energy only to leave us with a crash hours later. Evaluate what your intake is now, and reduce it. Honestly, soda has zero benefits (even diet soda) so it’s in your best interest to wean yourself from it completely. Enjoy a cup or two of coffee and then indulge in water the rest of the day. Your skin, your eyes, your entire body will glow with hydration and you’ll notice your energy will be stabilized throughout the day.

 

 

 Get sleep and stay active

For some reason, December arrives and all of a sudden we are too busy to take care of ourselves because we are so busy doing all things HOLIDAYS! We stay up late, skip workouts, and we disrupt our sleep with alcohol. It’s far easier to go to bed 30 to 60 minutes earlier than it is to add that time in the morning so cut off electronics early and snuggle up to get your rest. I guarantee that a rested body will allow you more energy for staying active and co tell your hunger hormones so you’re not diving into the cookie tray twelve times!

As for staying active—make a commitment to yourself to do something at least five days a week. That allows you room for travel and events that are planned or pop up. And you don’t have to hit the gym for every workout. A quick 20-30 minute high-intensity workout, yoga, or an hour walk are all excellent choices to keep your body moving. If you have time and love the gym, do that! I sure do! Do what you enjoy and will keep you moving.

 

These are just a few major ways you can help yourself sparkle and shine this holiday season. Incorporate them now and with practice, they will become part of your life throughout the year.

 

This was a guest post written by my dear friend, Amanda.

GET TO KNOW AMANDA.

Amanda is a full-time stay-at-home-mother, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and former personal trainer. She loves the outdoors, spending time with her husband and daughter, and living a healthy lifestyle with room for croissants.

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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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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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