Guiding a Mother Through Grief and Loss Around the Holidays
Guiding a Mother Through Grief and Loss Around the Holidays
Comforting anyone who has experienced a loss of any kind is an incredibly difficult, and emotional task, harder even when it is a perinatal birth or miscarriage. As a hospital social worker, you are no stranger to grief and loss, and neither are some of your patients. With the holiday season approaching, it is important to recognize how grief can be exacerbated by this time of year.
While the holidays are typically a time to celebrate surrounded by loved ones, parents who have recently lost a child may feel more hopeless than ever. This time of year revolves around a theme of birth and renewal which can be especially painful when the life lost was so young.
When working with patients experiencing grief and loss, it is crucial to be mindful of what you say. Often, well-intentioned comments or advice can unintentionally make the mom feel more isolated and alone. If you are unclear about something, it is always best to ask.
Compiled from a variety of sources, here is a list of 10 helpful tips to pass along to mothers who cannot fathom how they will survive the holidays.
1. Grief is Part of the Healing Process
Experience the pain instead of running from it (Morin, 2015) (Calrson, 2016). Give yourself permission to sit wherever you are at emotionally. Some people feel there should be a time limit on crying while some do not understand why they are not grieving the way they think they should. Grief, however, it is experienced, is a crucial part of the healing process. And the only person who truly knows how you feel and what you need is you.
2. There is no Shame in your Feelings
It is okay to feel a full range of emotions, even laughter or joy. Try your best not to judge yourself for feeling everything, even the positive emotions (Willets, 2017). This process will have its ups and downs through which there will be moments of sadness and devastation but also moments of love and maybe even hope.
3. Honor your memories
Find ways to have a tangible reminder that your loved one may be gone but never forgotten. Examples could be: write a letter, light a candle, create a special decoration/ornament, play a favorite song, make a certain food, etc. (Morin, 2015) (Calrson, 2016). Although it can never replace the physical presence of your loved one, incorporating a physical reminder into your holiday routine can help preserve those memories for years to come.
4. Find new traditions
Either create new traditions from scratch or alter old ones to better fit where you are now (Willets, 2017) (Calrson, 2016). This may be a good time to switch up your holiday routines such as go to a different restaurant, find a neighborhood to walk through and enjoy the decorations, maybe incorporating a time to remember your loved one in a special way. If too much change feels overwhelming, consider altering the plans you already have in place such as leave a holiday party a bit early and have an additional little celebration at home.
5. Create Healthy Boundaries
It is okay to say no to some things as you do not have to please everyone (Willets, 2017) (Calrson, 2016). There may be events of family functions that you cannot bring yourself to attend during this season. Feel empowered to treat yourself with grace and kindness during this time. Boundaries are vital in all facets of life but especially after a loss when you may feel vulnerable. Assert what is best for you and enforce those boundaries.
6. Be Mindful of your Physical Environment
If you need to limit decorations in your house, shop online if going into stores is too much, limit social gatherings, have open and honest conversations with friends and loved ones (Morin, 2015) (Calrson, 2016). If you are dreading the holiday season, gaining a sense of control may help stabilize your world a bit.
7. Create a Plan
The anticipation of the unknown can be the worst part. Making a plan can help you get through the event itself, even if that means including an escape plan. An escape plan can provide structure and safety for when you may be overwhelmed and need to leave an event early (Morin, 2015) (Willets, 2017). Having a clear idea of how to tackle a potentially emotional situation can provide some distance if the emotions do rise.
8. Spread Kindness
Kindness can be helpful for grief; you still have something to offer the world even in this trying time (Morin, 2015) From holding a door open to donating money to charity, a small act of kindness can go a long way for the recipient as well as the giver.
9. It is Okay to ask for Help
Do not be afraid to ask family members and friends for help with whatever your struggles may be, whether that may be meal prepping or simply needing someone to be present with you. Remember it is okay to reach out for additional support, in the form of support groups or one on one time with a
professional counselor. (Morin, 2015). Ask your social worker about free grief and loss counseling through Hopeful Beginnings.
10. Honor all Your Children
Some parents may feel uncertain about how to approach discussing and processing grief with their other children. There are no “perfect words” to share but engaging your children in continued conversations about their sibling and their feelings can be healing. Your children may enjoy being included in decision-making about new traditions and ways they may want to incorporate their late sibling into the holidays (Willets, 2017) (Calrson, 2016). Check in and ask how they are handling the holiday season and if there are areas in which they are struggling.
While it is never easy to console a mother who lost a child, hopefully, these tips can help take some of the guesswork out of what to say in difficult situations. Please let your patients know that when they are ready, Hopeful Beginnings provides free grief and loss counseling. Many women utilize counseling to help them find ways to honor their babies’ lives and navigate the grieving process as it evolves as time passes.
Carlson, R. (2016, December 1). Surviving The Holidays. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from http://nationalshare.org/surviving-the-holidays/
Grief & The Holiday. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://grief.com/grief-the-holidays/
Grimm, S. (2017, November 22). Grief and the Holidays. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.thehavennetwork.org/grief-and-the-holidays/
Melissa Willets December 07, & Willets, M. (2017, December 07). 7 Ways to Help a Loss Mom Handle the Holidays. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/complications/miscarriage/7-ways-to-help-a-loss-mom-handle-the-holidays/
Morin, A. (2015, December 21). How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201512/how-deal-grief-during-the-holidays?amp=
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