Larissa shares with us a few things that were helpful to ensure she survived the festive season
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what day is coming up in a few weeks. The decorations have been in stores for months, jacaranda trees have lined the streets with glorious purple flowers, carols have started playing and the day itself arrives in just a few short weeks. Christmas.
For many people it’s a wonderful time of year, celebrating the birth of Jesus or simply a chance to get together with family and friends. I used to love Christmas, watching the carols on tv, giving gifts and spending time with my family. I thought it was a great time of year… until my baby died. Christmas 2012 was full of anticipation as I awaited her birth and Christmas 2013 was a non-event as I didn't feel like celebrating without her. But I made it through and you can too.
The most helpful thing for me was to not have any expectations of myself. I didn't know what I would feel like on the day, and I certainly didn’t know if I would be up to attending the big family gathering. The thought of seeing too many people induced a lot of anxiety. And so my husband and I simply didn’t commit to anything. We agreed to see immediate family on Christmas Eve but didn't make any plans to see people for Christmas Day. It was the best thing we could have done! Not having any pressure to be a certain place at a particular time was very freeing. It meant I could allow myself to spend time with my grief without needing to put on a happy face for others.
In the lead up to Christmas, I became quite upset at the idea that Ariella may be left out. I wanted to see her name on cards; I wanted her to be included in any way that was possible. The only way to escape the fear of her exclusion was to not have any expectations of others. I desperately wished people would remember her and say her name, but I knew I needed to be ok if they didn't. I couldn't let their actions (or lack thereof) cause me added stress. I was very blessed in that she was remembered by quite a few people and I received some beautiful gifts for her and cards with her name included. But because I had decided not to expect it, those moments felt like an added bonus, not a necessity to surviving.
This might seem contradictory to the above point, but tell others what you need. One friend asked me whether to include Ariella’s name in the card and I didn't hesitate to tell her a resounding ‘yes’! I know of others who have written a brief Facebook status telling their family and friends to please include their children while others have told people face to face. It can be hard to be honest with people and sometimes I feel selfish doing so. But if you need to do it, don’t feel ashamed. It’s a hard time of year and it’s more than ok to do whatever you need to do to survive.
I've only experienced one Christmas without my daughter but it was the hardest Christmas of my life. I’m sure those who've had more than one Christmas without their child would have some more advice for you. If you do, please feel free to comment and share your wisdom. Together, we can get through this Christmas time.
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Larissa is a wife to Marcus and a mother to two beautiful children – Ariella Jade in Heaven and Levi William in her arms. She loves spaghetti bolognaise and the smell of rain, but neither of them could make her smile when, after a textbook pregnancy, Ariella unexpectedly died at 39 weeks gestation. No reason was ever found for her death. Soon after Ariella’s death Larissa began writing.
You can find Larissa's posts at:
Deeper Still (www.loveisdeeperstill.blogspot.com) and on Still Standing Magazine (http://stillstandingmag.com/author/larissa).