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The holiday season is a wonderful, joyful, and sentimental time for making new memories with the people you love. But when you’re grieving or facing the loss of a baby, you may feel you do not deserve to experience joy, happiness, laughter, and the beauty around you. You may feel emotionally exhausted and unsure whether you have the ability to enjoy the season at all.
But the truth is, no matter where you are in the carrying-to-term and grief journey, you have permission to laugh, smile, make memories, and engage in this season of life. You also have permission to feel sad and take time away from others when needed. There is room for grief and joy.
You are not dishonoring your baby if you find happiness in the holiday season, nor are you dishonoring your family or the holidays if you experience a heightened intensity of grief. In fact, you may find that embracing the season and creating traditions that include your baby and celebrating their life will help you cope.
You are not dishonoring your baby if you find happiness in the holiday season, nor are you dishonoring your family or the holidays if you experience a heightened intensity of grief.
In this post, we’re sharing a few ways to take part in the holidays and make new memories with your loved ones while also creating space for your grief. At the end of this post, you will find a practical application exercise to guide you through creating your own unique holiday traditions this year.
Ideas for New Holiday Traditions
Your memories and traditions will vary based on the holiday, and they can change each year depending on how you feel and what best serves you and your family. This is your time to experience and celebrate the holidays how you choose and a time to create a legacy in honor of your baby.
Here are a few ways to make memories and explore new traditions this holiday season:
- Carve a pumpkin while pregnant or in honor of your baby.
- Take fall photos while pregnant with your baby, while your baby is with you, or include a special keepsake in honor of your baby in the photos.
- Buy yourself fall flowers or light a fall-scented candle in honor of your baby. Memory and scent are deeply connected, and smelling these same scents in the future can help remind you of your bond with your baby.
- As you share what you are thankful for, include a memory or special story about your baby and your experience.
- Buy and donate gifts for a child the same age as your son or daughter would be each year.
- Buy a special decorative item in honor of your baby and put it out every year.
- Do random acts of kindness or service projects in honor of your baby. For example, you might bake delicious foods or treats and take them to your local firehouse, police station, hospital, neonatal intensive care unit, or senior living center.
- Send a holiday card or note to the people who are currently or have cared well for you following your diagnosis, in pregnancy, or after loss.
- Talk about your baby as you want to and choose to throughout the holiday season.
- Create a playlist of holiday songs or general songs that remind you of your baby, and listen to it when you need to feel connected.
- Create a memory tablecloth, table runner, or wall canvas. Have family members and friends write down their favorite memory of your baby or quotes, verses, lyrics, or any words that remind them of your baby.
- Take a trip while pregnant to the place you always imagined taking your son or daughter, or take a trip to the place where you feel the most connected to your baby.
- Take a moment of silence as a family in honor of your baby.
- Lay out an extra place setting in honor of your baby.
- Donate to an organization in memory of your baby.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and you should create whatever memories and traditions feel right to you and your family. You can also choose not to create new traditions or opt not to participate in existing traditions if that feels best for you right now.
Remember, this is a holiday-by-holiday, year-by-year process. Each holiday and season can look unique. It is entirely up to you how you navigate the holiday season after the diagnosis, during pregnancy continuation, in the time you have with your baby, and after the loss of your baby. There is no right or wrong way.
Practical Application Exercise
Gather a notebook and pen, and write down your current holiday traditions. What traditions do you and your family have for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or any other holiday you celebrate? Next to each, jot down a couple of ideas for how you can incorporate your baby into those traditions.
Next, list any traditions you imagined creating with your baby before diagnosis and loss. What traditions could you put in place this year or in the future to help you honor your grief and your precious baby? Jot down anything that comes to mind.
Having this list can help you navigate the holiday season and ensure you are celebrating the way you want and need to this year and in the future.
This season can be one where your baby is included, loved, grieved, and remembered. Invite friends and family into this process and let them care for you. There is room for grief and joy, and you deserve space for all your feelings.
And remember: There is no perfect way to celebrate or navigate the holiday season amid grief. Each holiday this year and every holiday season in the years ahead will likely look different. It is important that you give yourself permission to take this season one holiday at a time and then take each holiday season one year at a time. What you do to honor your grief, your experience, and your child this year does not have to be the standard for the future.