How to Survive the Holidays After a Miscarriage
By Krissi Danielsson
If you're struggling with the holiday season after a recent miscarriage or other pregnancy loss, you're not alone. Times of celebration often magnify feelings of grief and trauma, leaving many people who've lost a baby with little holiday cheer, particularly if the loss was recent. You might feel reluctant to attend gatherings, not wanting to face pregnant relatives or friends with new babies. In addition, you might feel like everywhere you look, you see another reminder that there should be another pregnant belly, face in the family photo, and/or stocking on the fireplace. To make Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve, or other holiday celebrations easier while you are grieving, try the following tips to help you cope. Know Your Limits If you are invited to a party where you know you will face more holiday stress than enjoyment, consider declining and sending your best wishes instead. You can make a different plan to celebrate one-on-one with the host if that feels more manageable or just bow out completely. Don't be afraid to decline social gatherings if you aren't feeling well—physically or mentally—after a pregnancy loss. Do what is right for you and your emotional healing. On the flip side, however, consider whether being around friends or family might help take your mind off things for a little while or possibly help you feel better by remembering the good in your life. Give yourself permission to stay home—or to go to the event and enjoy yourself. Find an 'Out' If you must attend a gathering, locate a quiet place where you can step away if you need some time to yourself. You can always head to the kitchen to "help" the host or go out to your car to "look" for something, such as your phone. Alternately, plan an excuse in advance for why you need to leave the party early in case you feel overwhelmed. Needing to get home to walk your dog, finish a work project, relieve the babysitter, or run an errand are all possible reasons you might use if you don't feel like sharing your grief with your host. Another option is to say at the outset that you can only stay for a short time. Your host may be disappointed and encourage you to stay longer but if you've let them know ahead of time, you can simply say goodbye and leave at the designated time. If your host gives you a hard time about having to go, know that's about them. Stick to your guns and head to the door when you feel the need to do so. If you're comfortable, you may want to just tell the full truth. Confiding that the emotional pain of your loss makes enjoying holiday gatherings difficult may make you feel less alone and will let your host understand what you're going through—and why you need to cut out early. Your host is likely to feel honored or humbled that you made the effort to attend (and shared your feelings) despite your grief.
Do a Good Deed Many people find that doing a good deed during the holiday season brings some comfort. Some like to participate in charity efforts to buy holiday gifts for children in less fortunate families. Others like to volunteer at nursing homes or help serve holiday meals to people experiencing homelessness. Doing something to help others in your own time of need gives you agency in easing someone else's pain, which in turn can help ease yours. Share Your Feelings With Family Remember that a miscarriage is a loss, and it's OK to mourn this loss with family and friends. People can support you best if they know what you need. Remember that people who have never experienced a pregnancy loss may not know what you're going through, but they are likely to be supportive if you share your feelings. In fact, you'll probably be surprised to learn that some of your loved ones may have also experienced pregnancy loss. Don't feel that talking about your pregnancy loss and emotional healing should be off-limits at this otherwise joyful time. People who care about you will want to know how what you are going through—and your loved ones can't help if they don't know you're struggling. Choose Your Battles Many people have a relative who may not "get it" no matter what. If you have an inconsiderate, clueless, or downright mean in-law, sibling, or second cousin who may throw thoughtless comments at you, decide whether you want to call out or educate that person, just smile and nod, or walk away. Remember that even though certain comments can be infuriating and hurtful, the person saying them probably isn't purposefully trying to be insensitive. If you know you'll be asked about your pregnancy loss, be prepared with what you do or do not want to share or discuss. You can prepare some responses ahead of time as well.
You'll likely be asked how you're coping—or be told how you "should" be feeling or recovering. You may be asked for details about the pregnancy loss and why you and/or your doctor believe it occurred. Some relatives may ask when or if you're going to try for another baby. If talking about these topics feels fine to you, then do so. If not, you can simply say you'd rather not discuss your pregnancy loss right now. Seek Comfort Consider finding online or in-person support groups or counseling. If you are spiritual, attend extra services in your faith, ask for help from your faith community, and/or say a special holiday prayer for your baby. If you have any worries that you might be clinically depressed, seek help from your doctor, counselor, and/or other mental health professional for advice and treatment. Don't Feel Bad If You Enjoy Yourself Remember that just as it's OK to not be in the holiday spirit, it is also OK to smile and actually have fun. It doesn't mean that you're not mindful of the baby you lost. Don't feel guilty for enjoying activities that take your mind off things. Know that it's not a betrayal to your baby and doesn't mean you've forgotten if you do decide to escape your pain for a few hours of celebration. In fact, celebrating with your loved ones while keeping your baby in your heart can be a loving way to honor what was lost. A Word From Verywell Coping with pregnancy loss is hard at any time of the year but particularly so during an otherwise joyful season like the holidays. Give yourself the care, space, and support you need to heal on your own terms. You don't owe anyone an explanation for how you celebrate this year. However, sharing your feelings can sometimes aid your recovery more than keeping your pain to yourself—and make for sweeter holidays than expected.
By Krissi Danielsson Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage. Krissi Danielsson is a former writer for Verywell Family covering miscarriage and pregnancy loss. She is the author of After Miscarriage, published by Harvard Common Press.Krissi experienced the loss of her first, second, and third pregnancies all within in the first trimester. She was disappointed in the available support resources, particularly for recurrent miscarriages, so she began to research and ultimately built her popular website, the Recurrent Miscarriage Information Center. Krissi has had two healthy children since her miscarriages, but miscarriage support remains an area of high interest for her. Krissi has a bachelor of science in psychology from Excelsior College. She attended Lund University Medical School in Sweden and earned a degree in family medicine.
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