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Holidays After Child Loss

Holidays bring our losses to the surface, magnify our emotions and all the things going on inside us. We're assaulted commercially with all things holiday, it’s in every store, on TV, in ads, it’s everywhere. We know it’s coming. How do we handle this?


First, know that it's okay to hurt and give yourself permission to do so.  


Awareness is key! Acknowledge that the holidays will look different then what we pictured or are used to and most likely will bring a layer of challenge. Grief takes a phenomenal amount of energy. Understanding your capacity will help avoid breakdown. 


Planning ahead and communicating with your people in advance, making sure everyone understands your boundaries and perhaps the need to change or avoid traditions and plans can greatly reduce the likelihood of having to do damage control.   Remember, not everyone will be grieving the same way you are grieving and that the way others will want to spend the holiday may not align with how you want to spend the holiday. And that’s ok.

Many are hesitant to mention their child for fear of setting off a chain reaction of grief.  But the grief is already there. It's inside us, and those who love us. It’s waiting to be released. Holding it in frankly doesn’t work and pretending everything is normal is not necessarily healthy either.  So go ahead. Speak their name. Honor them and make a plan (or several).


Be proactive. Take matters into your own hands. Make a plan to honor your child. Be creative. Do what makes the most sense to you. I highly recommend you do something proactive at the front end of your holiday season. Your supporters are well aware of who's missing and though they mean well, they may feel uncomfortable simply because they don't know what to do or say.  You taking the initiative to include your child and opening up the conversation to others, will help diminish some of the awkwardness.  


So be aware of your feelings and acknowledge them, confront the uncomfortable, make a few simple plans and honoring your loved one and giving everyone a chance to grieve in a healthy way.  You are not alone. You are not crazy. You will get through this... BUT you have to go through it.


Find ways to incorporate your loved one during the holidays.  This is the best way to feel close to your loved one and fill their absence.  You may want to find at least one or two ways to incorporate your loved one into already existing traditions and events that you identified as potentially being difficult and can change some things around or it could be a year of starting all-new traditions. 


  • Have a stocking for your child and at a party ask friends and family to write notes to put in the stocking to be read out loud later during the celebration. 
  • Have a separate tree for them so every year you can add an ornament, or ask relatives and friends to buy an ornament to add to their tree. 
  • Light a candle and keep it lit during a gathering.
  • Donate to a charity in their memory or serve food to the needy.
  • Visit their grave site and leave a grave blanket, wreath, poinsettia, or another meaningful holiday item.
  • Read a letter you wrote to your child out loud.
  • Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music.
  • Put out a photo table with photos.
  • Keep an empty chair for them.
  • Bring a stuffed toy to represent them in family photos.


Whatever you decide to do, just know that the love for you child and theirs for you will shine through this holiday season, if you allow it.   My heart is with you this holiday season!




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