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 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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14 Small Things to do For a Friend With PPD

Postpartum depression is a scary battle and perhaps, very hard to understand if you’ve never dealt with it. In this post, I want to talk about 14 small, but meaningful things to do for a friend with PPD.

There’s the saying it’s the little things, and that is so true when suffering from a mental health condition. The little things can make or break a person, and it’s those little things that people will always remember.

Do you have a friend that is struggling with postpartum depression, and you want to help her? Keep reading for my 14 small, but meaningful things to do for a friend with PPD.

 

But first……

Learn about PPD so you can begin to understand what she is going through.

First, I want you, the friend, to know a few things about postpartum depression. It’s a real and serious condition and your friend needs you know more than ever. If you would like to read more, here is my article on PPD and the resources for help.

 

14 Small, but Meaningful Things to do For a Friend With PPD

 

 

It’s also important to recognize the signs of postpartum depression and the seriousness of the signs.

 

Recognize the signs.

It’s important to recognize the signs that your friend, does indeed, have PPD, or maybe she even told you and your not quite sure how to offer her support.

If she told you that she may have PPD and that it’s no big deal, please don’t shrug that off! She may say that it’s no big deal, but inside, she is very well struggling– so please know the signs and monitor her.

Be aware if your friend is displaying these following signs:

  • loss of interest/being withdrawn
  • extreme sadness
  • an extreme sense that she is overwhelmed and unhappy
  • being angry/snapping at small stuff
  • not taking care of herself or baby
  • speaking about herself or harming baby

Far too often, us moms pretend to be okay because we believe that we can handle it all– with PPD, believing to handle it all is a true recipe for disaster because it can make the PPD that much more intense. If you can recognize your friend’s signs and get a handle on how serious they are, then you can begin to offer her support.

 

Know the seriousness of each sign.

Not sure if your friend is over-tired and over-whelmed, or really struggling with PPD?

Consider the answer to each question listed below:

She is withdrawn and shows no interest in activities she once loved to do.  This is something to be concerned about, especially if she was once an outgoing and active person. Does she give an excuse as to why she can’t go out, or does she say that she doesn’t want to do anything? Is she constantly making excuses as to why she doesn’t want to do anything?

You notice that she seems sadder than normal. Is she constantly down in the dumps? Is there a reason behind the sadness, that you know of, or does it come out of the blue?

You notice that she seems extremely overwhelmed and unhappy. Are the typical every-day things making her seem unhappy? Is she overwhelmed when you see her– for example, saying that she can’t handle the kids or doesn’t want to? Has she mentioned that every task seems so daunting and challenging for her to complete?

 

The anger.

Does she seem like an angrier person? Is it out of context for her to be an angry person? Is she getting angry over small stuff? Is she snapping at small stuff– for example, the children being too loud or the baby not sleeping?

 

Has she stopped taking care of herself? Was she once a person to care about her appearance, and now she doesn’t? To what extreme is this– is she not showering at all? Is her house dirtier than normal? Is her baby not being bathed or properly groomed?

 

The self-harming.

Does she ever talk about harming herself? Even in a joking matter, has she ever mentioned harming herself? Does she frequently bring up suicide or has she mentioned not being around? Does she seem like she could harm herself? Does she ever talk about harming baby? Does she seem overwhelmed to the point of frustrated and therefore, may harm her baby? This is the most serious sign and action needs to be taken right away.

Remember, you know your friend, you know what is normal and what is it– make sure to be an advocate for her in this time of need.

 

1 .Offer to babysit while she gets a few hours to herself. Having time for herself is so important and she will appreciate the gesture.

2. Offer to babysit for a date night.

 2. Be an open ear for her to vent to. Let her bitch and vent about it all– and no judging.

3 .Give her a ‘just because’ gift like flowers or a simple card to cheer her up.

 4. Bring her a coffee from Starbucks or her favorite treat, and sit down and talk with each-other. Nothing warms the soul quite as much as coffee and good conversation with a friend.

5. Let her know that she IS an amazing mother and that she’s NOT alone in this.

6. Don’t take it personal when she cancels plans or doesn’t reply to your messages right away– let her know that your still here for her. Often, people that suffer from depression (as well as PPD) withdraw from social situations and keep to themselves. They WANT to interact with friends and get out there, but it’s just too hard some days. Don’t lose faith in her, and let her know that.

7. Plan a day out with her doing something fun.

8. Plan a day at home with Netflix and junk food.

9. Cook and bring her a meal one night to get the burden of dinner off her mind. Trust me– this would be more appreciated than you may know, because even a simple task like cooking dinner can feel like a marathon.

10. Be a shoulder for her to cry on.

11. Come over her house and watch the baby/play with the kids while she can clean or nap.

12. Come over her house and help her clean.

13. Bring her over take-out from her favorite restaurant.

14. Spend time with her, in the silence, if that’s what she wants. Lastly, your friend just wants that, a friend–not a therapist, a doctor or another mother.

 

 

Here are also some amazing resources (my favorite) for all things PPD:

 

 

I hope you found my 14 small, but meaningful things to do for a friend with PPD helpful. Please let me know what you thought about my list and also, I want to hear how you help a friend when they are in need.

 

 

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5 Simple Things To Do With Your Child When you Struggle with PPD

If your a mama that is currently struggling with postpartum depression, I get you. I know how hard it is to be emotionally and mentally there for your kids, for your family, for everyone else in your life. Some-days, just making meals may feel like a marathon– so how can you give your all to your children? Below, you will find 5 simple things to do with you child when you struggle with PPD.

 

 

5 Simple Things

 

 

There were a lot of days where I just felt maxed-out, I was barely holding on by a thread and surviving was my motto. Some days, I felt like I was doing the bare minimum as a mom, but that was the furthest from the truth! Looking back, my boys were fed, healthy, and more importantly–happy.

During my darkest days of PPD, I got by with one step at a time, hour by hour, day by day, and I’ve learned one very important thing– you don’t need to be a pinterest-perfect mom for your babies. They won’t remember that ridiculously cute snack of grapes and kiwi in the shape of turtles, or that craft you conjured up to make hearts using celery and paint– but they will remember how you were there, and how much you loved them.

Before you read about 5 simple things to do with your child when you struggle with PPD, you should check out my self-care for those that suffer from depression.

You need time to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.

5 Simple Things

 

 

And if you need more self-care ideas, here is a free list.

5 Simple Things

 

5 Simple Things To Do With Your Child When you Struggle with Postpartum Depression

 

 

 

1. Cuddle with your baby.

5 Simple Things

Cuddling with your baby has so many benefits (for both of you!) and it may be the single most easy thing to do to bond as well as catch some much needed rest.

I found that co-sleeping, no matter how controversial it may be, is amazing– the baby and toddler cuddles are so sweet and knowing that it won’t last forever, make it that much more precious.

 

2. Put on some TV and sit down with them.

5 Simple Things

I’m not ashamed to say that my boys watch TV, and it’s a perfectly fine thing to do. Honestly, the television can be an amazing tool on days when you just don’t feel up to par and the kids need a little entertainment.

So go ahead– put on some Moana or Coco and snuggle up to your babies. I promise, they’re brains will not go to mush.

 

 

3. Read them a book.

5 Simple Things

Reading to your children is so beneficial, and it’s something simple that you can do with them. Do you want to know the best part? You can read them the same book, 10 times over, and they won’t get tired of it. You can also have your child read to you–something I would have my son do a lot when I was at my lowest.

 

 

4. Take them outside.

5 Simple Things

On the days when you feel down and isolated, getting outdoors can be the best mood booster–buckle up your kids in the stroller and go for a walk, take them to the park, or go through the forest for a stroll.

And the best thing about taking your kiddos outside is– anything will basically entertain them. My boys could play with mud, sticks, and rocks all day long.

 

5. Turn on some music.

5 Simple Things

Music can make you feel good, and your kids can find fun in it, too. Turn on some tunes and dance with your kiddos, they will find the silliness in it and laugh along with you!

 

I hope you enjoyed my list of 5 simple things to do with your child if you struggle with PPD. What do you think about my list? Shoot me a comment and let me know what you think!

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