Surviving The Holidays After A Loss

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The holiday season has always been my most favorite time of year. Starting with Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas and going through New Year’s Day, I love the time spent with family, the decorations and overall glee of this time of year.

Years ago, my life changed after the loss of my daughter. The months went by and I remember thinking that I was “getting through” my grief so well … that is until the holidays came around.

My first year as a parent who lost a child was beyond hard and I struggled greatly during those few months. While everyone was celebrating, I simply went through the motions on those first holidays. Years later, I’ve learned to enjoy these special days in a different way. My hope is I can help others experiencing loss by sharing a few things I learned on my journey through grief during the holiday season.

It’s Okay to Not Feel Joyous

During this time of year, people often seem happier, caught up in the holiday spirit. Unfortunately, families who have lost a loved one, especially a child, may not feel the joy this time of year so often brings. It may be hard to spend time with family all while missing someone during your celebrations. It’s tough to carry on with traditions when your life feels so out of sorts. During the holidays friends and family often send Christmas family photos with birth or pregnancy announcements, both hard to see with when you’re going through a loss.

The First Year After Loss is the Hardest

Typically, the first year after a loss will be the worst, a family’s life has changed completely in such a short time and everything seems uncertain. The holidays may be uncomfortable not only for you but for family members who truly want to help but may not know how. Believe me, as the years go by, it gets easier to survive your holidays, they can actually be fun once again. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, the first year after the loss of any loved one, especially a child can be tough. Be good to yourself and make things easy for you and those who love you.

Make New Traditions Honoring Lost Ones

If annual traditions are hard, don’t feel bad for skipping out on those or for changing them up altogether. I don’t think we put up a Christmas tree the first year after losing my daughter. It was simply too hard. Over the years, we’ve went back to putting up a tree but we include ornaments and decorations that help us to remember our daughter.

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Take Time for You

Make sure that you are taking time out for yourself. Spend time with loved ones as you feel up to it, but don’t feel like you have to entertain or keep up appearances for anyone.

Remember You’re Not Alone

There are other families going through their first year (or second, or third, and so on) after loss. You are not alone in your grief or what you are going through. It may help to reach out for support from others in the area who are walking this same road. Though this holiday season may be hard, it will get easier as time passes and you’ll be stronger for it.

Are you struggling with loss this holiday season? What advice do you have to offer?

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A South Carolina native, Natalie has recently moved back to Columbia after several years of living in various states across the country while her husband served the United States Navy. Now that she and her husband have settled down, they are beginning the process to adopt a child of their own. She and he husband, suffered the loss of a child and due to complications are unable to have children of their own. While living in Washington state, Natalie became interested in helping families going through the loss of a child and became certified as a doula and today she runs her nonprofit organization, Healing Grace Childbirth Services, supporting families affected by pregnancy and infant loss. She is also active with the Stillbirthday program, acting as a Student lead and representative for the state of South Carolina. Natalie holds a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration and is a few months away from completing her MBA. In her free time, Natalie enjoys cooking, refinishing old furniture, spending time with her puppies and, in the fall, tailgating for the Gamecocks. She blogs about her journey towards adoption on her personal blog, Project: Build Our Family.

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