You will hear me say this often.. while I am absolutely no expert on grief nor do I wish to be, I can definitely share with you what I have learnt in these past 12 months, navigating the death of my daughter. Within the space of a year, you will face events that were once met with so much joy and celebration but now only emphasis the gravity of your loss and the pain in your heart. Go gentle with yourself.
Anticipatory anxiety is always worse
Anticipatory anxiety: the fear and dread you experience before the event.
While your anxiety is 1000% warranted, sometimes our mind runs wild and we struggle to keep up. Take a deep breath, prepare yourself for the situation as much as you can, make sure you have plenty of support from people who love and care for you and if you feel comfortable enough, give it a chance.
Communicate with your loved ones
Communicate often. Our feelings and emotions about certain situations are forever changing moment to moment. Let those closest to you know how you want to navigate that day well in advance as there may be other events in the lead up to it eg, Christmas-Christmas Carols, Christmas Parties etc. It's ok to want to still be asked or involved and then decide what situation you're comfortable with when the time comes. People won’t know what you are wanting or needing unless you tell them. Don’t leave it up to them to assume what you want as that may only lead to disappointment and hurt feelings.
Be Selfish & Set Boundaries
This may feel uncomfortable but your needs and feelings should be most considered in these moments. Don’t feel like you need to just go with the flow so you don’t cause a fuss. Life isn't what it once was. You and your loved ones are navigating unchartered territory. Stay true to yourself and what you’re comfortable with. The last thing your loved ones will want to do is cause more unnecessary pain or make you uncomfortable. You have suffered unimaginable trauma. You have every right to set high boundaries for yourself.
Adopt a "safe word"
When you're in a social setting, have a pre arranged "safe word" with your partner or a close friend for when you need to take a break from it all without wanting to draw any attention to yourself. Choose something thats suited to your setting, a word you can use more than once if you need to. Something like ice.. "hey do you know where they keep the ice" "do you need ice for your drink" "I wish I got some ice".
Don't put pressure on yourself
Don't feel obliged to show up, buy gifts or join in on celebrations. If you are not comfortable, don't push yourself. It's ok to cancel at the last minute. It's ok to leave after 5 minutes. It's ok to not want to get out of the car. It's ok to hide in your bedroom. And it's also ok to enjoy yourself and be the last to leave.
Honour your Baby however you like
However you want your baby’s presence to be felt on these big days, embrace it and include them. Have photos, a special playlist, their own place at the table, a candle burning, their own Santa sack or stocking, a Christmas ornament, make a toast. Get your loved ones involved. Have them draw a picture or write a letter to your baby. Ask if they have a special song to remember your baby by and add that to your playlist.
Go Gentle on Yourself
This journey is difficult. There will be days that hurt more than others. Days that you thought may be ok, suddenly are not. Days you were dreading, may surprisingly bring a touch of joy. Just go with it. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Grief ebbs and flows. Stay true to yourself and your needs.