Thanksgiving week is here. And I can honestly say that this year the grief is so much different than last year. I am not necessarily "looking forward" to the holidays, but I am not dreading them either.
There is a big part of me this year that wants to do the holidays twice. Go through them once as a normal mom with a 9 month old. Be there for her as she experiences all the "firsts" the season has to offer. Be able to be present for her and watch her be filled with joy.
Then go through them a second time as a grieving mom who is without her baby boy. To set aside time to mourn all the things I will miss about not having a 20 month old this holiday season. I still have a hard time parenting both children, mixing my two roles. Sometimes I think separating things would be easier, but that is not reality. This year the holidays feel more of a balancing act than anything else; learning how to balance joy with sorrow. "Give us joy to balance our affliction" Psalm 90:15
So in anticipation of the holidays, I thought I would post a few ideas of how we survived the holidays last year, what we are doing this year, and how we are including Caleb. Hope this helps others get some ideas or at least feel less alone in their grief.
-I missed Caleb so much and thought about him constantly.
-We didn't "do" Thanksgiving at all. Stayed home in our pajamas all day, ate frozen pizza, and watched Harry Potter. It was wonderful and felt true to where we were in grief.
-We didn't visit Caleb's grave. I just couldn't go there, so we didn't.
-I didn't listen to Christmas music, didn't look at the holiday cards we received in the mail, and didn't put up a tree.
-Stayed home. Didn't join the crazy crowds and did most of our shopping online. Crowds gave me anxiety and so I avoided them.
-Spent all of Advent and Christmas Season away from our home parish, avoided babies, and tried hard to remain anonymous.
-Had "exit" strategies for how to leave a place if one of us was struggling.
-We made a Christmas Memorial for Caleb. It included a few pictures of him along with a small tree with ornaments on it of other babies who had passed away. This gave me something to do and helped me realize I was not alone. Every time I felt sad because my child wasn't with me I could look at the ornaments and think of all the other families who had a child missing as well. There is comfort in solidarity.
--Still miss Caleb very much and will think about him constantly.
-We will go to Thanksgiving-back to the old traditions. But we are still having our frozen pizza for lunch that day and have decided we will do so every year:)
- I want to go to the cemetery, maybe...we will just have to wait and see how we are feeling. I hate the thought of not visiting him on these important days, but also hate the thought of going.
-Still going to do the memorial for the babies, but this year maybe get a tree instead of just branches.
-Might put up a tree and decorate, but not putting any pressure on myself to do so. If I feel like it I will, if not then I won't.
-Will brave the crowds for shopping but in segments so it's not too overwhelming.
-I think I will try to listen to Christmas music, maybe even bake something.
-We will hang Caleb's stocking with gifts inside of it for his puppy and sister.
-Spend Advent and Christmas back at our home parish, still afraid to see 20 month olds....
-Will be celebrating Abigail's "firsts" while mourning the ones that Caleb never had
The holidays are incredibly hard. Find support groups, find friends, find someone who will understand and let you grieve. Don't be afraid to say "no." Find ways to incorporate your loved one into the holidays. Let Jesus guide you one day at a time. Praying for all those families who are going through the holidays without one of their children.