How are we going to do it? How will we get through this holiday called Christmas when child loss has occurred? Our hearts are broken. We feel so desolate and alone. We don’t have the energy to face the day, and yet……….we know we want to do something other than cry the entire day. We feel a special need to do something to bring our child back into this holiday.
But, how? How do we do this? I’m struggling right along with you trying to figure out how to cope on Christmas Day with the grief from the loss of my son just a few months ago. What works for one, doesn’t always work for another, and I know that.
Our family is doing something very special. We will have what we’re calling “The Michael Tree” — a special Christmas tree just for my son Mike. Each of us who visits during the Christmas holiday will place a special ornament on the tree and share a story as to why we chose this particular ornament and how it relates to Mike.
Although our hearts are breaking, we feel “right” deep within our hearts to be doing this. It is the one thing we chose together as a family to do to keep the memory of Mike alive, as well as to incorporate him into our Christmas this year. I’m sure this will be our way of remembering him every Christmas forevermore.
I’m so happy to be able to share with you a list of “Ten Tips for Coping with Grief on Christmas Day” from a very special friend of the grief community. I hope you find this brief summary of tips as helpful to you as I’ve found it to be for me.
- Be Honest – Tell people what you DO want to do for the holidays and what you DON’T want to do. If the thought of decorating a tree and having to visit shops filled with festive cheer is too much for you, talk to your family and friends about minimizing gifts or cut out gifts and a tree completely. Also consider where you want to spend the day. It might be comforting to keep the traditional location, or you may want to be somewhere different such a restaurant.
- Communicate with your Family & Friends – Make decisions on which traditions you want keep and which ones you want to change. Maybe make a new tradition that symbolizes something your loved one liked to do. It’s important to remember that we all grieve differently, and the way other family members will want to spend Christmas Day may not match how you want to spend it. Planning in advance and having honest communication, will ensure everyone is in agreement about traditions and plans.
- Don’t feel Guilty – If you are overloaded with invitations to festive events, don’t feel guilty about declining some of the invitations. It is a good idea to drive yourself to any events you decide to attend, so you are free to leave if it all becomes too much to handle.
- Music Favorites – Play your loved one’s favorite Christmas music, or any music they particularly loved. Consider featuring their favorite dish or beverage on the menu. If you are stressed about making the Christmas meal, ask family and friends to either cook the meal for you, or ask that they all bring contributions. If you only want a small reminder, you can have a moment of silence during the meal or a toast in memory of your loved one.
- Tell Stories – A photo table with photos of your loved one at past Christmas Day celebrations is a good way to initiate story telling. Everyone has their own favorite stories about the family member who has passed away, and retelling these stories is a positive way to grieve. Personality traits, funny occasions, relationships and family folklore all combine into the intricate weave that formed their life.
- Prioritize Invitations – If you usually receive invitations to lots of many parties, dinners, and events, save your energy for those that are most important to you, and try not to over-commit. Grief makes it harder for us to concentrate and remember things, so write things on the calendar / diary and make a list.
- Help Others – If you feel you would like to be involved in helping others on Christmas Day in memory of your loved one, volunteer your time to assist at a hospital, nursing home or delivering meals to the elderly in their homes. You can also adopt a family in need of assistance through a Church, Salvation Army or volunteer organization. Another idea is to make a donation to a charity that was important to your loved one in their name.
- Seek Assistance – Christmas can be especially tough, so this may be the time to talk to someone. A grief counseling service can help you find that even though the sadness may always be with you, learning to live with grief can free you to move forward in your life in positive ways. Talking with other people in a grief group who are also struggling can be a positive experience.
- Bypass the day – If you just can’t face the day, it is okay to take a break this year. Consider carefully though before you make this decision, as to whether you could just simplify the day to make it more bearable. If you do decide you don’t want to participate this year, still make a plan for the day so you know exactly what you will be doing. Will you still visit family and friends for a short time, or do you want to spend quiet time on your own to reflect?
- It’s okay to be Happy – Remember, it is okay to feel happy. Being happy at times doesn’t lessen how much you love and miss the person who isn’t there for Christmas Day. You shouldn’t feel guilty for any small joys you do experience.
May God bless us as we work so hard through this grief called child loss! And, may God fill us with the peace that we need to make some kind of special memory that will be one that validates the beauty and joy of our child.
My love to each one,
PS If you have tips for coping through grief from child loss on Christmas Day, please feel free to share. This is how we learn, love, and support each other!