Let me start by saying that this post, by no means, is a tutorial of any sort. There’s no how-to guide on getting through the holidays after losing a child. Every single person will find their own way to navigate through these tough times. It’s not easy and if you’re reading this because you’ve lost a child, I’m sorry. No parent should ever have to experience what the holidays feel like without their child by their side. The holidays are the most joyous time of the year, the time of the year where your family makes new memories for years to come.
There’s simply no other way to put it. I’m definitely not an expert on this topic but I thought I would share with you all how my family and I are getting through our first holiday season without Tristan.
We’ve already gotten through Thanksgiving and it was hard. Thanksgiving has always been a big tradition for us, admittedly completely overrated, but it’s always been a big celebration. Our family gathers and eats like everyone else’s but it’s usually filled with laughter and fun. Last year was different for us because we spent it in the NICU. It was our first year spending it alone as a family of four. Our family picture from Thanksgiving is the only photo that we have with the four of us. Honestly, it’s the worst picture ever too. None of us were dressed and Tristan was having a bad day that day. It’s hard because although I have memories of Tristan having a rough day on Thanksgiving, I’m grateful because on that day we managed to get all four of us in a picture together. Every Thanksgiving from now on will never be the same.
I won’t lie to you, the holidays will never be the same after losing a child but here’s what we’re doing to try and get through them this year.
Incorporate them into family traditions.
Tristan is still very much a part of our family. We say good morning and goodnight to him every day. His urn goes wherever we go. If we’re going to bed, he comes with us. If we’re spending family time together in the living room, he’s with us. Our family traditions won’t change either. My sweet baby boy made it very clear to us that even though he’s no longer here, he’s still a part of our family and our traditions. During our Christmas photoshoot, he made an appearance. It was only for a second but you see that beautiful rainbow in the background of our pictures?
That’s Tristan. As soon as we arrived for our pictures, I felt a few drops on my shoulder. No one else felt them which I thought was weird. When it was time to get a family shot, this bright rainbow appeared in the background.
Now, a rainbow probably won’t appear in your pictures but find ways to incorporate your child into your family traditions. We’ll still put Tristan’s stocking up this year and every year after that. He’ll still have a new ornament waiting for him in his stocking that will go on our tree. His elf will still appear around the house right next to his sister’s. It’s the little things that help make this easier for us.
Allow yourself to continue to grieve.
Grief is a lifelong process. It’s okay to be sad during the holidays. There will be triggers everywhere. Remember to take time our for yourself during the madness to just breathe. If all you do is remember to breathe during the holidays no one will judge you. Some days we allow ourselves to lay in bed and do nothing but look at pictures of Tristan and tell stories to each other about our favorite memories with him.
Allow yourself to grieve and be sad when that wave of sadness hits but remember the happy times too.
Honor their memory.
When Tristan died, we decided that we would honor his memory every chance that we got. One of the new traditions that we’ll be starting this year in honor of Tristan is creating a gift basket for a NICU family. We know all too well what it’s like to spend the holidays, especially Christmas, in the NICU so we want to create a basket for a family that’s going to be going home just in time for Christmas. We’ll fill it with special things to help make their transition to home easier so that they can focus on making memories at home with their baby instead.
This will be something special for us and will be a great way to continue to honor Tristan’s memory every year.
Don’t allow others to dictate how you feel.
This one is a biggie for us. Our family is a weird mix. Some of them like to tell us that we shouldn’t cry or be sad. Others like to overly compensate for Tristan’s loss and make their grief seem greater than ours.
The most important thing that I’ve learned about losing a child is that you should never allow others to dictate how you feel. Ignore the ignorance and stupidity of others who have never been in your shoes, and allow yourself to feel everything you need to. Your feelings are yours and yours alone, and they’re valid.
photos by Melissa Ann Photography