We lost our first daughter the day before Thanksgiving two years ago. After our loss, we went straight into the holidays. I remember how difficult that first holiday was, trying to navigate through grief and the holiday season. Just like every other holiday season, I wanted to create memories and honor traditions, but it didn’t feel the same with the loss. All of the traditions and rituals were a reminder of what was missing.
I know a lot of people who are navigating their first holiday season without someone they love, and I wanted to share with you three things that I have learned that have helped me.
We all need space. It is important especially during this busy season to remember to create space in your week for some self-care. It may take a bit of planning and a bit of trying different things, but taking the time to care for yourself before immersing yourself in the chaos of the holidays can really help. Just like in the airplane talk before takeoff, you must put the oxygen mask on your first before helping others. Maybe it’s keeping a journal and carving out some time in your day to write. Maybe it’s taking a hot bath one night a week. Or maybe it’s a designated time for coffee with a trusted friend. Whatever it is that will help you take moments of oxygen, create some space for it.
We need to take it at our own pace. I remember that first year wishing that I could just take the grief, put it on a shelf, and resume the happy holidays. But grief always seemed to find it’s way back into my arms when I least expected it, and at the most inopportune times. I would compare myself to others who were grieving, some who seemed to be grieving more and some who seemed to have moved on with ease. Of course, I didn’t know their whole story, and comparing myself to anyone for anything never helps. I needed to be okay with where I was in my own grief, and be okay with voicing my needs when I was ready to do so. Embracing it makes it a little easier to walk through grief.
We need to give ourselves grace. Even though I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last two years, and a lot about grieving, I don’t have it all figured out. I still have my breakdown moments, hours or days. I still don’t know what to ask for at times. Sometimes I know what I need but I’m still afraid to ask. The best I can do is realize that I’m still learning every day. Learning about grief. Learning about myself. And giving myself the grace to be okay to make mistakes. Learn from them. And keep growing.
Navigating the holidays can be difficult for a lot of reasons. I’m thankful that my community has given me the grace and space to grow through this process and allow me to move at my own pace. And I’m thankful that God continues to walk with me on this journey through grief even during the holidays.