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Grief Attacks
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Nov 18, 2001
Grief attacks from child loss can be triggered by any number of things and can happen when you least expect them. A nostalgic song can bring about uncontrollable tears. Hearing the words in a poem will often stir emotions that have been quieted for months. Seeing a family playing together can bring on a major grief attack as you are reminded of your child who is no longer with you.

The two main holidays that usually cause the most problems with grief attacks are Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are both family oriented holidays and can make the pain of child loss seem unbearable, bringing on predictable grief attacks. The thought of spending the holidays without your child might be so overwhelming that you meet the holidays with nothing but dread.

Sometimes, changing traditions on holidays tremendously helps parents to get through special family days. Some parents have found it helpful to go away on a vacation instead of staying home and suffering through all of the painful reminders of a first Thanksgiving or first Christmas without their child.

If you traditionally sing at such holidays, or gather together for a noon meal, try reading a poem instead, and having your meal in the evening. Do things different enough that you are aware of the differences. By acknowledging these changes in past traditions, you are also validating your grief. Grief validation is a most important step in the process of healing.

As painful as it sounds, it helps to meet a grief attack head on. If you try to ignore the pain, it will only build up and be far more complicated to deal with in the future. Remember—it is normal to feel an overwhelming grief during these special family holidays.

Many parents find comfort in framing a favorite picture of their child and placing it in a very special place where everyone can see it. This often will prompt conversation about the child, which is painful, but also comforting. Parents need to talk about their children—even the ones who have died. Talking helps to quiet grief attacks, and can bring to remembrance happy times spent together as a family.

Remind yourself that tears are not something to be ashamed of, but are a great release for the pain you’ve been holding inside. Expect to feel extra melancholy during family holidays. Quite often, the fear of facing the holidays without your child is often worse than the actual event.

When you gather together as a family, talk about what new traditions you would like to begin. Express the pain you are feeling over the loss of your child, explaining why you feel the need to create some new family traditions.

Plan something together as a family that is in honor of the child who has died. Plant a tree in your child’s remembrance. Make a picture collage to be framed. Put together a memory book of your child, and have each family member add a favorite picture, treasured writing, or a special saying in memory of your child.

By including your deceased child in some way in your family holiday, you will meet the grief attack with some control, and you will not be left feeling powerless as you continue to heal.
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