Child Loss & Grief

Christmas after stillbirth hurts – here’s what I’ve done to navigate (& love it again)

Jenn Hepton  |   26 Nov 2019

We all find different ways to cope with traumatic experience, but Christmas after stillbirth, miscarriage or any kind of loss can be particularly difficult.

Writer, facilitator and advocate Jenn Hepton – she’s also a certified grief and hypnobreathwork coach – tells us how, following loss, she’s learned to meet the festive period with strength, love and intention, wherever she’s at.

Redefining Christmas

It didn’t happen overnight and it took a while, but I’ve reached a place where I do love Christmas again, following loss. It might help to read our story if you don’t know it already – you are not alone, but of course – every experience in this corner of the fertility world it completely unique.

Christmas means something completely different to us now, as we’ve had to redefine it for ourselves after infertility, and the death and loss of our twins and daughter. As a grief and hypnobreath coach, I work with several women who find holidays trigger an overwhelming sadness, which can be very isolating.

I’ve been there and it is incredibly hard. I get it.

When you’re struggling to conceive, everything that should be full of cheer and joy can easily signify isolation, and a reminder of what is missing in our lives, no matter the support network around you.

It would be nice if we could sing Jingle Bells again, instead of crying and madly turning off the radio.

It would be nice to be able to share in conversations, without feeling alone.

And wouldn’t it be nice if when kids and children are mentioned, you didn’t feel that aching feeling in your stomach?

We can’t change our world. But we can create a toolbox to help us redefine what Christmas means to us, and honor the babies we have lost.

Let’s make that happen, for you this Christmas. Here are six tools and strategies I use every holiday season, which have been truly life-changing.

1. Acknowledgement

Acknowledging to yourself and your community that Christmas is challenging is completely okay.

And, it’s okay to take this time to reflect and remember, and acknowledge all your feelings. When we acknowledge, we are giving ourselves permission to feel, and not to hide.

Feeling all the emotions that come up is incredibly important for our healing process. We know that when we bottle up our feelings, they have a habit of exploding out in different ways – it happens all the time.

So give yourself permission to feel the jealousy, the fear and the joy.

2. Set your intention

When asked to go to that dinner party, or mom’s night, it’s easy to commit quickly, to be positive and make others happy. But, do we really want to go? Is this something which will support our heart, or bruise it?

When we take the time to think of our intention – or our reason for going to the dinner party or event – we’re able to anchor ourselves in that intention. This will help you prioritize your social calendar, and advocate for yourself when you need to take time to rest.

If the event is voluntary, is it a positive thing for us to do? Work with your intention and why you’d go, and if it’s not aligning, it’s okay to skip it.

Self advocating for your fertility journey

3. Self advocating

This one is huge.

First, you don’t have to go to all of the dinner parties. Actually, you don’t have to go to any. If you do go, advocate for yourself. Let your host know that this Christmas (or any Christmas) is a difficult one, and that you’ll try your best to come but that you may need to leave early.

Or, let them know that you may need to change your mind last-minute, depending on how you feel that day.

We can’t assume that our friends or family know what we’re going through, and so with intention we can self-advocate from a place of strength.

Also, find an ally – a friend who can help you advocate and who can save you from uncomfortable situations, if you’re not ready to share your story with others.

4. Self preservation

This was key in allowing me to enjoy my ‘new’ Christmas.

If I intuitively did not feel ready to do any major Christmas activities, I didn’t. I also had a ‘code’ word that I would say, so that my husband knew I’d reached my limit at parties or festive events, and it was time to leave.

When I wasn’t with my husband, I would have a friend – an ally – who knew my story and would be there for me. I would excuse myself from conversations, and take bathroom breaks. If I was spending too much time in the bathroom, I knew it was time to leave and go home and rest.

An affirmation that really helped me was, I am at choice here.

5. Create your new Christmas tradition

My husband and I went away for our first Christmas after suffering the loss of our daughter, and it was perfect.

We went somewhere sunny, and we created our own new rituals which honored her and celebrated our love for her, and our twins. This year will be our third Christmas without her and our first one with our rainbow baby. And we always invite her into everything we do.

6. Have your monologue ready

I remember there were years where I was trying to conceive and had experienced several miscarriages, and didn’t tell anyone. And we’d all-too-often be asked whether we had children, or were planning to have children.

It’s still incredible to me, that our society thinks it’s okay to ask such personal questions, but that’s a whole other topic.

I have two to three scripts ready for when I’m asked these questions, so that I’m not caught off-guard. I also check in with my intention (see above) and how I’m feeling at that moment. These scripts are so personal, though, and it’s up to you how you want to share.

If we don’t share our story at all, I do find with myself and clients that feelings of guilt and shame can settle in, and we go on to bury our emotions, which isn’t healthy. So, look at your feelings and intentions.

You are allowed to choose who you want to share your story with, without feeling guilty.

One last thought – take your time

Lastly, with rest our heart is able to heal.

I invite you to take as much time as you need, to rest during the holidays. After we have experienced the loss of our fertility or baby, we change. We may find we don’t have the energy or bandwidth for some things, like we did before. So, it’s important to check in with yourself, before heading into this season.

This is how I have come to redefine and navigate my Christmas, and how we, as a family, honor our lost babies.

Through our own rituals, boundaries and special keepsakes, we’ve created a Christmas that feels true to our story.

About Jenn

Jenn is a grief and hypnobreathwork coach who supports mothers through infertility  and pregnancy loss, to feel stronger and braver as they step into their full power. She is an international speaker and writer who speaks on pregnancy and baby loss awareness and support.

She loves to teach restorative yoga, take long walks with her two beagles and is always up for a Sunday roast with her husband. Her own fertility journey spans termination for medical reasons (TFMR), multiple miscarriages, IVF, egg donation, stillbirth and surrogacy.

Jenn Hepton

Next time you’re here, take a look through our psychologist’s Christmas survival guide, for building out your toolkit.

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