Grief on Christmas Day: 5 Ways to Cope

First of all: Merry Christmas! However, maybe “Bah, humbug,” may be more appropriate. Grief is hard in the holiday season – and Christmas day may be a nagging reminder of who you have lost.

For me, Christmas time is a reminder that my second child, Zachary, was supposed to be a Christmas baby. His original due date was just a few days before Christmas. Around this time, about eight years ago when I was early in my pregnancy with Zach, I remember wondering:

  • Will I be late and deliver a baby on Christmas eve or day? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to avoid or aim for those dates.
  • Will my son one day complain he doesn’t get enough presents because his birthday is so close to Christmas?
  • Will the roads be slippery and I have to deliver in the car?!

Those musings changed – dramatically. Zachary was born at 30 weeks gestation. My holiday wondering were morphed into:

  • Termination or continue with the pregnancy?
  • Cremation or burial?
  • Do we give our baby the name we intended for him before we knew he would die?
  • Do we bring our living child, eleven-month-old Hannah, to the hospital to meet her brother?
  • How do we go on?…………

The decisions were unbearable. We chose to continue with our pregnancy in hopes of a miracle. We chose to name our baby Zachary, as we had planned. We welcomed Hannah and all of our parents; we felt it was important for everyone to meet Zach. We settled on cremation so that we could keep our baby’s ashes at home with us. We had NO IDEA how to go on…

This will be our eighth Christmas without Zachary. It would have been his eighth year of life, if he had lived.

I don’t have any grandiose plan for how to survive the holidays, just tried old wisdom of what has worked for me personally over the years.

Here is what I have found to help:

  1. Don’t fight your feelings. Just let them flow. Release inner judgement and welcome the emotions, experience them, and release them.
  2. Choose to be around people who “get it,” or at least try. If you are in the muck of grief, it’s okay to decline an invitation or pass on the hostess/hosting duties. It won’t be forever, but you must do what is right for you right now.
  3. Give yourself the gift of self-care. Make time to do what restores your rest and joy. Some ideas: have a bath, start a new book, spend time in nature, see a movie or a play, listen to music, dance, make art….
  4. Slow down from the bustle to intentionally remember and honor your family and baby. This is going to look different from person to person. Mindfulness is healing. It helps us know where we are at. Intentionally tuning out the noise to reflect is like a spiritual practice. It may help you connect with the memory of your child and allow you to celebrate in unexpected ways.
  5. Reach out for help if you need it. There is no award for toughing it out. This could be a coffee date with a close friend or an appointment with a therapist or your family doctor.

I am grateful for this community. To have a place to write so openly, to support others and also receive support… that is a gift I most appreciate this Christmas season.

Sending you love and strength for whatever stage of the journey you find yourself on.

Alexis Marie Chute

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