for handling the Holidays
You are not alone
PREPARE beforehand for the ambush of emotions that can come at any time during the holidays.
ACCEPT the difficulty of this time of year and your loss. Remind yourself that it's a season and it will pass.
LOWER your expectations- Movies and songs paint an unrealistic picture of the holidays.
DON'T ANESTHETIZE the pain with drugs or alcohol- this creates more depression.
TRIMMING- If old ornaments or trimmings cause too much pain, don't hang them this year. Put them aside for another time.
GET UP AND MOVE- Take care of your physical well-being. Healthy foods will give you strength; fattening and sugar-filled foods can worsen your depression. Expercise produces natural stress reducers.
SHOP online if going to the mall is too stressful.
COPING STRATEGY- Have the phone number of your counselor, pastor, church, close friend or hot line available. Make the commitment to call someone if negative thoughts become too strong.
LIGHT- Get some sunshine. Winter can take its toll on your emotions by the loss of sun you experience.
SET BOUNDARIES- Precisely explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year and what you aren't. Don't let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle.
PRIORITIZE- Greeting cards, holiday baking, decorating, putting up a tree, family dinners. Ask yourself- do you really enjoy doing this? Is it a task that can be shared? Is it something that needs to be done this year?
The Willow House
Be honest with your children. Let them know how you feel. Don't be afraid to let them see you cry.
Tell them the truth about the baby's death. Even young children who don't have well developed verbal skills know more than you may think.
Read them story books that can help them understand death.
Be careful not to use euphemisms for death, such as "asleep" or "went away" which can scare or confuse children.
Listen to your children. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. If you don't know the answer to one of their questions, tell them so.
Accept offers from others to care for your children.
Encouge children to use play as a way of acting out their thoughts and feelings.
Children need to have something to help provide them with a memory of the person they lost. Buy or make a special ornament so the whole family will remember their loved one.
Be sure to keep some of your family traditions. Children need to have warm, familiar feelings during the holidays. Have a family friend or relative help out if it's too much for you.
Take your kids to visit the cemetery during the holidays. If they have been involved in the death and grieving, then include them when you decorate the grave with flowers or plant a small tree.
Take the time to talk about your loved one while you are there.
I promise to help us laugh again.
I promise to honor the different ways we grieve our baby's death.
I promise to honor your thoughts and feelings.
I promise to cherish you with all my heart.
I promise to tell you my truth in a loving way.
I promise to trust your journey.
I promise never to forget our baby.
Taking Care of Yourself
Taking Care of Your Partner
Taking Care of Your Marriage
Grief can be very subtle. You make think you're handling things just fine but the grief is still there. By taking care of yourself the grief will be manageable.
Excercise, even if you don't feel like it.
Eat a balanced diet
Find a friend to listen
Find constructive ways to vent your anger
Learn to recognize the symptoms and feelings that accompany grief so you can know when youre acting out of your grief.
Give yourself permisison to play
Give yourself permission to cry
Do Less rather than more
Be careful not to over-indulge in drugs or alcohol
Tell your partner what you need from her.
Be a good listener. Encourage her to share her feelings with you.
Don't act annoyed if she needs to repeat the same things over and over again.
Write notes to her.
Call her when you are away.
Give her permission to grieve in her own way.
Be patient with her
Find new ways to share intimacy.
Discuss priorities this holiday season and what you both can handle.
Tell her what you need. Don't assume she's a mind reader.
Keep a sense of humor. But remember timing is everything.
Expect your grief and hers to not be the same.
Keep courting her. Keep the romance in your relationship.
Keep an open mind about counseling.
Strong and Tender: A guide for the Father whose baby has died.
By Pat Schwiebert, RN