The upcoming holidays can seem like a daunting task to anyone who participates in them. They’re even more so when you’re grieving the loss of your child or children. I know just thinking about spending another Thanksgiving and Christmas without my son, Jensen, brings me such heartache. In my first year of grief, I wished there was a guidebook in how to journey through the long winter days.
We all know this book doesn’t exist.
What helped me tremendously was reaching out to other loss parents to talk, vent, and just share about my child and what was going on around me. Sometimes, I found myself in vulnerable positions without being able to reach out. Grief had tested me again. Through a lot of tears and running out of family-filled rooms, I learned a routine to help combat the mix of my grief and the holiday cheer.
These are my 5 tips to tackle grieving this season.
This may sound like a simple task, but in the heat of the moment it can be hard to catch your breath. For me, not seeing Jensen at Thanksgiving dinner or opening up presents really let reality hit me square in the face. I felt like I was hyperventilating in those moments. The world was spinning around me and grief was the one pushing it faster and faster. Then, I remembered to take a deep breath in and out.
I was still living in the nightmare that is my reality, but focusing on my breath allowed me to take care of my mental and emotional needs.
Recognize what you’re feeling.
Grief has made me feel more emotions than I ever thought I had. I used to want to hide away some of the forceful ones like anger and envy. They made me feel like an ugly person. By ignoring those feelings, they were more likely to come back and in a much stronger wave.
Recognize what you feel. In that moment, you’re feeling what you need to and maybe it will help you understand why. When I saw the little ones in my family with food all over their face, I was so angry. I wanted to project it on them, but I wasn’t angry at them. As I took my feelings in, I was able to understand I was angry Jensen wasn’t here with food all over his face.
The more a person is in situations like these, the better it is to recognize the emotion and tackle grief before it snowballs.
Take the moments as they come.
This has always been my biggest challenge. When I think about living through the holiday season, I don’t see the days in-between the big ones. Everything is weighing down on me and I feel like I have to live through two months in one moment.
Obviously, this isn’t true.
We have lived through the worst days of our lives. No matter how different our stories are and how time feels when we look back on those days, we each took the moments as they come. That’s how we get through each and every day, before and after loss. Don’t take on these next weeks all right now. Take them as the moment comes.
Small victories make big differences.
Celebrate when you can and break down if needed.
As hard as it seems, don’t feel guilty to celebrate or break down.
It feels hard to think we’ll ever truly celebrate after loss and if we do, it’s not as full as it used to. That’s perfectly fine. Just don’t be afraid to smile or attend an event because your child isn’t there. Take something that reminds you of him or her and talk about them when you can. Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy a day.
On the other hand, don’t feel as if you have to attend every holiday event or get-together. You are the only one who knows your exact grief. Don’t mistake this as a sign of weakness. If you do decide to attend and feel overwhelmed, I hope you remember to breathe, but it’s okay to breakdown too.
Always know you’re doing the best you can.
If none of these tips to tackle grieving this season help, I hope you can take away this very last one. You are doing the best you can. It might not feel like it in certain moments, but it’s true. No matter if you decide to stay in bed untilJanuary 2 or go to every get-together possible, you are a super hero.
Wishing you all a gentle holiday season from my grieving heart to yours.