Surviving the Holidays
By Liene Ciguze, David’s Mom
Do you ever wish holidays after child loss would come with a user manual? We used to
know how to do holiday, but now we are at a total loss.
Unfortunately, there is no user manual available. Because we are so different and our life situations differ too. Some of us have other children. Some of us lost our only child. For some, it’s been a while since the loss; for some, it’s fresh. Some of you even lost your child around this time of year. For some, it’s essential to pay tribute to your child and continue the celebrations the same way as before. Some want to skip it all and be on an uninhabited island with no Xmas trees, decorations and TV that keeps blasting us with images of perfect happy families having perfect holidays.
So how do we survive holidays best?
Let me share my first experience. I lost my son in March, so by December, I was kind of robotically functioning. Since it was just two of us – my husband and me, we decided to travel. We spent Christmas Eve on the plane, which was fine by me. I didn’t feel like celebrating or putting up decorations at home. My family was not happy about my decision to go away, but I made this decision for myself because that was the best decision for me then. We celebrated New Year’s Eve at a hotel. There was a dinner party, and the beginning was quite civilized. I got dressed and put on make-up, we sat at a table and had some food, but when midnight approached, I broke down. I was overrun by immense sadness. I couldn’t believe I have to celebrate New Years without my son. So I excused myself and went back to my room, where I cried for probably a couple of hours until I fell asleep. So, the civilized me didn’t even last until midnight.
My story might not be everyone’s story, but the reason I’m sharing it is:
Holidays heighten emotions – sadness, anger, resentment. You can almost count on it. It might come from many different sources – holiday cards, movies, ads, songs, memories – you name it. So, let’s assume that it will be hard, whether it’s your first holiday after you’ve lost your child, second or 8th like in my case. There will be tough moments. And if your think about it, something would be wrong if we wouldn’t have them because great love comes with great sorrow. So, let’s not pretend we are fine because we are not and neither should we be.
So, how can I care for myself when it’s hard? What do I need to take care of myself? These are the questions that help to decide how to spend this holiday season. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about your decisions – about not doing what other people like you to do, saying yes to something and then changing your mind. Give yourself flexibility. Decide if you wish to decorate your house or not. Whether you wish to have people over or stay home alone. And I genuinely believe that you can trust yourself to know what you want for yourself if you ask yourself – what do I need this holiday season? Listen to what comes up. You will know what you want.
Two more things I’ve learned during my journey:
First, the fact that you feel more fragile, sad, and broken during the holiday season doesn’t mean anything about your progress or how you handle the grief; it also doesn’t mean anything about the future holiday. The fact of how you are feeling today doesn’t mean you’ll be feeling like that for the rest of your life.
Second, it’s ok to experience some joy, laughter and moments of happiness during the holidays too. Moments of happiness and joy don’t mean you are not grieving the loss. Grief is a lifelong marathon filled with many things, so allow for the moments of joy and happiness when they come and don’t be afraid of sadness, anger and disbelief – all part of the journey.
Lots of love,