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.