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Facing the Holidays Without Your Child
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Nov 21, 2011
Death is such a mystery, and when it happens to someone near and dear to us, death becomes all-too-real. This is especially true when we experience the totally unacceptable, unexplainable death of a child. We wander around in a thick fog for a long time unable to focus on anything. Joy has been shocked out of us, and we feel numb to the world. Most of life loses all meaning in the first months following the death of a child. There is no joy. Unbearable pain has taken residence in our hearts and nothing seems to be able to lift the heaviness of it all.

This type of heart pain and brokenness is especially traumatizing during the holidays. We panic not knowing how we are going to get through the next hour, much less the entire holiday season. It all feels like too much. And, in all practicality, it is too much for us to face, so we must set personal guidelines for trying to get through the holiday season following the death of our child.

It is wise never to try to follow the same holiday rituals and traditions expecting a happy outcome. Life has been turned upside down and inside out and is spinning out of control on most days. In the blink of an eye your child’s life on this earth was gone. You must now take the time to simply breathe deeply, try to relieve your body of all forms of emotional and physical stress, and take each day as it comes. Trying to do too much too soon is a sure-fire way to increase your level of anxiety and pain.

Make no apologies and feel no guilt for your roller coaster of emotions following the death of your child. Your life has gone through major changes and your heart has endured some of the deepest pain known to all of mankind. By letting others know that your holidays will be different this year because your life is now totally different, you have set the stage for some support. There’s no sense at all in playing the pretend game. Your pain will eventually make its appearance to everyone around you. It’s better to line up support from the early moments of your loss to make certain that you are surrounded by caring people who are trying to understand.

Find some way to include your child in the holidays. It will help your grieving to know that you have kept your child’s memory alive. Some parents have found it helps to place a special ornament on the Christmas tree each year engraved with their child’s name. Others choose to buy a gift and donate it to a child in need of some special holiday joy. Many parents light a candle and keep it burning through the holiday season as a way of honoring their child. Do something that will make you feel connected to your child. There is no right or wrong thing to do. Whatever works for you is the best choice.

Most of all, remind yourself daily that you will get through this holiday season without your child, and your pain will not always be this raw. The holiday season is a time of love, and there will be a day when special moments will warm your heart and your grief will soften. By doing something to include your child in the family holiday, you are allowing yourself to cry tears of joy as well as sorrow.

Grief is a journey that takes time and lots of trial and errors alone the way as you find what gives you the most comfort during your deepest hours of pain. Be extra kind to yourself, and in time you will be able to face the holiday season with moments of peace as you find new ways of holding your child close even in death. – Clara Hinton - Author of Silent Grief
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