Giving Thanks?

While I might be a little slow to joining the crowds, I’m noticing the holiday season is upon us.  If I think about it, I suppose I have seen Christmas decorations up in stores right next to the Halloween displays since October.  And I think I’ve been procrastinating on writing this post as I’ve searched my mind for words of wisdom, comfort and solace during this heart-wrenching holiday time for babyloss parents.

I remember our first Thanksgiving after our daughter died.  It was extremely difficult to say the least.  We were flying to see my husband’s family.  It was a very short 2 months since our daughter’s death.  I was reading “No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life” by Thich Nhat Hanh (of which I remember nothing now).  I brought my pad of paper and oil crayons with me as I did artwork to help me process my grief (and no, I do not identify myself as an artist, but I found putting color to paper to be helpful.  I used a lot of black for a while).  I remember thinking it didn’t really matter if our plane crashed on the way there, or back.  So yes, like any of you reading this, I too experienced passive suicidal thoughts.  My daughter had died, and living didn’t seem to matter so much any more.  I wasn’t *actually* going to kill myself, but I had never known that living could be so hard.

So the holidays.  A commercialized time of joy and celebration.  Good food, good family, good friends.  But what’s left if you have no appetite, don’t want to be around your family and someone VERY important is missing, and well, most of your friends just don’t get it, and they have plans of their own along with their own and joys and sorrows to deal with?  It can feel like an empty, lonely, depressing and isolating time.  If it’s your first holiday season without your baby, I get it.  I’ve lived it in my own way.  I support you in taking care of yourself, whatever that looks for you.  It might mean you stay home this year.  It might mean you join in celebration with family and friends.  It might mean you light a candle for your baby.  It might mean you speak your baby’s name when everyone is talking about what their thankful for this year.  And it might mean you feel anger, rage and sadness that there is something so completely wrong with the world this year (and every year after) – your baby died.

As time passes, you might also find your experience of the holidays changes.  I mean, all things change with time.  Nothing stays the same.  We can count on that.  I do believe that “positive” change takes intention from us… time, energy and focus.  It doesn’t just happen magically.  I do believe that as babyloss parents, we can eventually find hope, love and healing in our loss(es), and in this holiday season.  Of course in a heartbeat I would choose to have my firstborn daughter here with us, alive and well, healthy and whole.  And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing because then I wouldn’t have her as my daughter, and I wouldn’t be here, with you.  I wouldn’t know the love of my firstborn, I wouldn’t know my “new normal” me, or my “new normal” husband, or our “new normal” family.  I do believe that the amazing pain and love of my firstborn recreated me.  And I like who I’m becoming.  I am someone who is more open and more attuned to the suffering in the world, and of course to babyloss in particular.  I am someone who is more open and more attuned to the love and kindness in the world, and I know nothing is to be taken for granted.  Sometimes it feels like a double-edged sword – the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the fear and the love – living hand in hand, side by side.  And it enriches and deepens my life.

My hope for all of you dear readers, is what I expressed earlier, that you find the ways you need to take care of yourself.  Ask for help if you’re able.  Many people are clueless as to what you might want and need.  It can be extremely difficult to ask for help in the midst of your grief, and I still encourage you to find your voice to advocate for your needs.  I remember reading on another babyloss mama’s blog how she told her husband she got to take the first year “off” after the death of their baby.  I wish I had known to do that.  I often didn’t know what I needed, or was too afraid ask.  And that’s OK too.  We all find our voice as we are able.  In time, may the love you have for your baby enrich and deepen your life.  Much peace and love to you this Thanksgiving season.

How are you feeling this holiday season?  What are your plans for Thanksgiving this year?  And in the midst of the joy and pain of the holiday season – where do you find your connection to your baby?