“I put pressure on myself after several holidays that I should be okay. Probably like everybody else thinks over time, ‘She should be okay.’ But there were times I didn’t feel okay, and I had to be easier on myself and say, ‘It’s still only been two years,’ instead of, ‘It’s already been two years.’” –Charlaine, GriefShare
I have been meaning to write this post for almost a month now, but if you read the title, The Holidays … Round 2, that is exactly why I haven’t done it.
One thing that I have been told by others is that the second year of a loss is harder than the first. I always thought, “How is that possible?” Up until about a month ago, I didn’t believe it. I was doing pretty well. I hadn’t had what I call a bad day in quite a while. I made it through the transition from summer to fall, got through my birthday (which was hard last year) and even Halloween was easier this time around. Then the days of Thanksgiving came upon us all. Stores start to decorate for Christmas. Everyone talks about being thankful. Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for many, many things, it’s just an added reminder of so much that I have lost. And it all hit me so much harder than it did last year. I’ll be honest and say I had two really bad weeks. I hid it pretty well from most people. As the week of Thanksgiving approached, I started doing better. After we enjoyed turkey meals with both families, we took the boys out of town for the long weekend. I think getting away from it all, being removed from familiar surroundings and the welcome change in our everyday routine made all of us feel a little bit better.
Since returning from our weekend away, I have held my own … mostly. It took me until just this week to feel in the spirit of decorating for Christmas and tackling the shopping list. I have to say though, that as I sit here tonight, our tree is decorated, lights are outside and my shopping is 99% done! I was in the Christmas spirit, I just didn’t feel like doing anything until now.
My hope is that I can keep the momentum up for the next two weeks. The boys have Christmas programs coming up and just a few days left of school before winter break. Rodger returns tonight from his last business trip of the calendar year and then plans to take some much needed time off. Having him and the boys home always helps this momma!
One thing that really struck me last year after the holidays, is that several people asked me how our Christmas was. And they didn’t necessarily ask in a compassionate way. When you know someone has lost a loved one, especially if it has been in the past year, do not ask them in your most jovial voice, “How was your Christmas?!” This really threw me off guard. It was not a question I was expecting and especially not from some of those who asked it. I understand that it is a common question to ask after the holidays, but take a minute and think about who you are talking to. Be mindful of what season of life that person is in and what is going on in their life. I finally had enough of being asked this, and similar questions, and told someone point blank how difficult Christmas had been and that we did what we needed to for our boys, but no, it was not a wonderful Christmas. I definitely shocked her with my answer, but maybe from now on she will say words such as, “I have been thinking about you and your loved one this holiday season. I’m sure it has been difficult to celebrate without him/her.” This leaves the person open to talk about how the holidays were or just to say a simple thank you.
Here is some advice for those of you who are grieving any kind of loss this holiday season …
-Be gentle on yourself.
-Do what you feel like doing.
-Don’t feel like you have to do anything.
-Be willing to tell people ‘No.’
-If you commit to something and then just can’t follow through, back out of it … it’s okay.
-Take your time in your grief and journey along your path at your pace.
Jonah’s mommy, Maggie, has some wonderful advice for how to support someone who is grieving during the holidays: Grief and the Holidays.
Many churches offer services of remembrance and hope during the holidays. This can be a time of reflection and even healing for those who are missing someone. Churches often have these services on or close to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.
I hope that something amongst all of this is helpful to you, whether you are grieving yourself or know someone who is. For those of you who have lost a child, I welcome any comments on how you get through the holidays. Does it get better? Is it always hard? What do you do to remember your child during the holidays?
My point to all of this is that yes, the holidays are still hard. I know they will get easier … it has too. I just don’t know when.
Well written, well spoken and articulated. Continuing to pray for each of you.
Thank you for mentioning Jonah and myself. The holidays have been so hard and I know they are for others. Thinking of you and praying for you!
Thank you so much for this post. Your honesty is very much appreciated and your words help both those who mourn and others who don’t understand loss. This is our first Christmas without Tyler, who would be 4-months old. I just bought a stocking for him. We are not exchanging presents this year and also did not put up a tree. (We can get away with this because we don’t have other children.) For those of us who are grieving, this is a difficult time to celebrate and be joyful. We are just trying to get through. I read in a book about traumatic loss (and losing your baby during childbirth is a very traumatic loss) that when you have experienced trauma, you need to treat yourself like you are in intensive care. My husband and I are trying to do that. And it’s also hard because by 2-3 months after our loss, most people have moved on and the support that was initially there is no longer available. No parent should have to endure this. So friends and families of those who have lost babies, be very compassionate toward the parents — don’t judge them or put any expectations on them, especially during the holidays when they are reminded of all they have lost. Sending love to your family…