By: Sabrina Ivy
The stockings are hung. The presents are wrapped. The menu is planned. And your heart is a mess. Not just a little mess. A giant, sticky, crazy, out of control mess. Am I right?
You’ve got plans with family. Despite the hell you have experienced you feel obligated to carry on and participate in the holiday festivities.
You are expected to tuck your grief in and show your Christmas cheer for those around you.
Here’s the thing. This whole “fake it till you make it” thing is a bunch of proverbial crap. It never exactly pans out as you hoped it would. It is inevitable. SOMETHING will make you want to run, scream or shout the celebrations away into oblivion. “My baby is dead, and I don’t want to be here!!!” But you don’t. You stay quiet.
No one really gets it and they are likely going to pose everyone into the annual family picture. The pressure is building to somehow contort your face into a smile when your heart is screaming for mercy. One click… there it is. Your face forever plastered into family history with tears streaming down your face and some kind of painfully awkward grimace that somewhat resembles you. Yeah…not your best look.
Let’s just be honest with the world. Holidays with grief is hard.
When you are grieving a baby it can be completely awful. Grieving the child that you had been planning your future with makes the holidays torture.
Our daughter was stillborn in March of 2014. That Christmas, I decided to avoid the whole thing and travel home after the holidays. I was thinking that would mean missing all the holiday gatherings, all that crappy picture taking and hiding the tears. It was a genius plan! Apparently, I didn’t clarify that with the family and they ever so sweetly held off on their own celebrations until we cruised into town. That was the sweetest form of torture they have ever bestowed upon me. It made my heart ooze with all sorts of happy-sad-in between kind of feelings.
Perhaps I should have done a little preparation for that. To be completely real, it has been almost four years since our daughter passed away and I still struggle with all of this. Every single year. And that’s ok.
It never really gets easer…it just changes, like you will.
Clearly with my family, avoiding the holidays are simply unavoidable. They are just going to shower us with their love and Christmas cheer whether we wanted them to or not. God love ‘em. So I needed to come up with a way to survive them. The holidays, not my family…ok…well maybe them, too.
How do we make the holidays easier?
It is important to come up with a plan heading into the holidays. It is important to let others know you will be under a lot of stress. It’s ok to remind them that you are grieving and how difficult this time is for your family. It’s ok that you might need to step out of the room just to take a breath. You might need to leave early. You might not end up showing up at all. Write a letter, send a message or a text. Just let them know so you can feel less pressure to be anything but authentic.
The other thing we need to remember is what Christmas is about. The TRUE meaning of Christmas. It isn’t about those family gatherings and the presents. It isn’t about the perfect pictures and the perfect smiles. It has nothing to do with the meals and the stockings. It has everything to do with the birth of our Savior who came to this earth to end all suffering. Does that mean once you remember your pain will instantaneously dissipate into oblivion? Yeah…no. That is not the way it works. What it means is that we have hope. A hope that this broken world can never offer. Hope that one day we will be reunited again.
I truly hope you find yourself at least a small spark of joy this Christmas. Give yourself plenty of grace. You can do this.
Sabrina has been married to her wonderful husband, Chris, for 13 years. She is a mommy to four beautiful children; two that walk with them and two that live in Heaven. They are a homeschooling families and have found great comfort in being able to mourn and grieve in their own ways together. The Ivy’s daughter was stillborn at almost 37 weeks on March 22, 2014. This has been a journey of faith, grief and hope for their family.