How can you survive a holiday or special event without your angel(s) physically present?
My first piece of advice is, don’t go if you can’t. If you have done a lot of emotional work and are actually getting out of bed these days, can I just say congratulations? Whether your loss is recent, it’s been a long trying to conceive (TTC) road for you, you are pregnant, or on your third rainbow, we weren’t always able to do that–get out of bed that is. So, just because someone invited you to a baby shower or a kids party, it doesn’t mean you have to go. I think it’s important to face reality little by little, at a pace you can handle, but be gentle with yourself. And if you can, just be honest. “I’ve been having a hard time recently. Joislen is heavy on my heart, and I don’t think a baby christening is best for me right now.” If anyone can fault you for grieving, they may not be deserving of your friendship. I’m not sure of a nice way to say that…
Okay, so, for the times you’ve decided to go. You’ve decided to go to Thanksgiving dinner even though last time you were there, you found out 2 days later you conceived. Or, last year you had a horrible panic attack seeing the child the same age as your angel. But, you’ve decided to try again. You’ve decided not to spend this Christmas in a hotel away from everyone (just me?), and want to give family a chance. Whatever you’ve decided to face, PLAN AHEAD.
If grandma gets all the kids gifts, I hope she remembers the angels too. Something as simple as a magnet of their symbol can mean the world to us grieving parents. I would say something if Joislen was forgotten. “Mommy, I appreciate the bibs for D3! I know losing Joislen was hard on all of us. It really helps me when she’s remembered as we celebrate her rainbow sibling. You know her symbol is the yellow butterfly. Anything you do with her in mind will go on her shelf and be cherished by us forever.” Things like that. At thanksgiving dinner, when my brother was praying and saying all he was thankful for, he said he was thankful for our angel Joislen. I bawled hysterically. I never get to hear her name unless I initiate it. Let your family know you need your baby to be remembered. For families who have had multiple early losses and want their babies acknowledged, someone could say something as simple as, “We have all your angels with us always.” Those things mean so much to the bereaved.
So, you’re at the forth of July party, even though that’s when you announced 2 years ago. Don’t run at the first sign of something not going great. Go have a good cry in the bathroom, find a trusted loved one to share your hurt or trigger with, and if you are able, go back out and participate as best as you can. In the same breath, if you are just not okay, and your family dynamics are being disrespected or intentionally belittled, it may be best to find the nearest exit. Don’t torture yourself. We care about other people’s events, but not when they aren’t being kind. You don’t have to subject yourself to someone’s cruelty.
STUFFED ANIMAL! If you don’t have a weighted bear or something cuddly the same height and/or weight I encourage you to invest in one. If those measurements are unknown, a special accessory will do. We had family pictures. And as much as I love my husband, rainbow baby, and step-daughter, I didn’t want pictures with just them. I wanted pictures with our whole family, and that includes Joislen. I dressed her teddy bear twice this past holiday season. And it was comforting to have her represented in pictures. If you are more discrete, maybe wearing a charm on your necklace to symbolize them will help to get through the event.
The reality of it is everyday can feel like molasses during hard parts of grief. And those days are not limited to the closest calendar days to the event. My hardest days were long after she was gone, truth be told; when reality set in and she was not a part of it in the way I expected her to be. It’s not just special occasions that draw us back. But when we get an invitation to anywhere we have to decide if the environment will be loving and gentle enough to be in. I didn’t want to miss a wedding of some near friends we were pregnant with just because their son lived and our daughter died. That was her special day. So I forced myself to be present, and we had a very good time surprisingly enough.
The moral of the story is, if you go, great, if you don’t, great! Do whatever you need to do to be as okay as you can be, whichever way you decide. Sometimes we need to say no thank you to the baby shower invitation and instead spend that day looking at pictures from our own baby shower, when our healthy, happy baby was leaping in our womb, and just have the freedom to mourn. That is perfectly okay too. This is your life. We couldn’t control the outcome of our very own child’s life on earth. But we can control how we want to live in the light of that reality. For our family, 9/10 times I’m going to the party, and 10/10 times, Joislen is coming with me. She will come up in conversation, and I will connect with other humans in a very palpable way. I’ll face the day, the occasion, the gathering, with all I am; a mother is part of me, and she is part of my motherhood.
Forever in our hearts.
Our angel babies.