MOTHERHOOD, GRIEF, AND THE HOLIDAYS

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When you lose someone you love, getting through the day is hard. Getting through the holidays can feel impossible. And when you’re a mama on top of it all? Just getting out of bed can seem too difficult.
 
When my dad died suddenly in the fall of 2017, I had an 18 month old and was a full time nanny to a teen, preteen, 6 and 4 year old. I was constantly juggling being triggered, hospital flashbacks, and random crying fits with snacks, playing on the floor and nap time. I felt like a terrible mom and I know I wasn’t the best at my job in that season. I’ve learned a little about the journey of grief since then, and I wanted to share it in hopes that you are encouraged by what I’ve learned.
 

Set aside time to grieve.

It sounded foreign to me, but setting aside time during the day or week to just be sad and feel whatever I felt made a huge difference. It allowed me to get ahead of some of the bigger waves of grief because things weren’t building up quite as much. Making time to grieve helped me work through my emotions so that I could be more available the rest of the time.
 

Take care of yourself.

As mamas, we take care of everyone else first. It’s just what we do. It’s noble and our people appreciate it. But at some point we have to take care of ourselves, if only so that we can keep taking care of the people we love. If we are so run down and emptied out that we can no longer keep going, what good are we to those we want to take care of?
 
Self care is not selfish. And I’m not just talking about a spa day (although, yes please). Track your water intake. Journal when you’re eating and what you’re fueling your body with. Make sure you’re getting outside for a few moments and getting your steps in each day. Find time to sit in silence for a few minutes, with absolutely no input. Turn off the TV and go to bed early. Create a restful evening and morning routine. Get off social media. Turn off the news. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Grief is draining and so is motherhood. Make sure you are filling yourself back up with things that actually make you feel good (i.e. NOT endless scrolling on IG).
 

It’s okay to not be okay.

Really it is. It’s also okay to be okay. Whatever you feel, it’s okay. Unless you’re having suicidal thoughts. In that case please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone for support. If you’re having a good day, don’t feel guilty about it. If you’re having a really hard day and can’t stop crying, that’s okay too. You’ve got to give yourself the freedom to feel and release the emotions inside of you or you won’t be able to keep moving.
 

Don’t do it alone.

We weren’t meant to do life alone. I think that is one reason we are OVER the isolation COVID has brought with it. Grief is not a journey to be walked alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, friend. Find a counselor, a support group or an online community. Ask a close friend to be your check-in person and promise to be honest with them when they ask how you are. I know that especially at the holidays it can be easier to shrink back and isolate yourself or to hide behind a fake smile and lots of Christmasy activities. But there is healing to be found in being honest with yourself and in discovering that other people feel deep pain and are still standing, too.
 

Think about traditions before they get on top of you.

Alot of the time, we think of the holiday season and we think of our favorite traditions. When we’ve lost someone, traditions can easily become something we don’t want to do anymore. It can just feel wrong to keep going with something when life looks so much different than you thought it would. Take some time to consider your family traditions and what has changed since your loss. That way, you’ll be a little more prepared. Perhaps consider starting a new tradition in their honor. (Find a list of ideas in this post.)
 

It’s okay for your kids to see you cry.

I can’t tell you how many times I broke down in front of my son. At first, I tried to hide it from him but it’s like he knew anyways. I remember him just climbing up in my lap and giving me a sticky sweet hug and kiss. Our kids know something is going on, and it’s good for them to see vulnerability. Obviously, everyone’s family is different and you need to do what is best for yours. But don’t be afraid to let your kids see you break down. It shows them you’re human and gives them a reference point for how to handle their own grief.
 

Explain to your kids what you’re feeling.

Our kids understand more than we give them credit for. I explained how I was feeling in the best way I knew how to my son when he was 18 months old and still do now that he is 4. His ability to actually understand and empathize with me has really blown me away. When we talk to our kids about our emotions, we are giving them real-time reference points for how to handle their own difficult and painful situations. Certainly remember to keep things age-appropriate, but I’d encourage you to consider letting them in. You may be surprised at the bond you form.
 

Do your best to be IN the moment you’re in.

One thing I remember about that first holiday season (and even now, on a difficult day), is how distracted and distant I felt. Everything felt foggy and I felt like I couldn’t think clearly. I’d want to be with my son, but I’d be relieving my dad’s last moments. I’d need to cry, but instead distracted myself making dinner. I think that when it comes to healing, and living purposefully in general, a good rule is to be present in the moment we are in. So, this season, strive to be present. Whether that is doing something holiday related with your family or taking 15 minutes to cry and look at photos. Allow yourself to be fully immersed where you are. It will help you enjoy the blessings you have and also give you margin to mourn what you’ve lost.  It will help you navigate the holiday season with hope.
 
I am passionate about coming alongside women who have lost. I’ve written about grief several times HERE, have a free email series HERE, and created a support group HERE. I would love to encourage you in this difficult season.
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Anna Seeley is wife to Josh and mom to Logan and Loralei.  She created Graceful Journey with the mission of encouraging women to live into the hope and purpose they were made for through storytelling and tangible tools. She believes every woman has a purpose and a story as unique as they are and that we are all beautifully and wonderfully made. No one is too old or too young or too busy to live life on purpose.  If you were getting coffee together she would remind you that there is hope in every season, something to be learned in every heartbreak, and that there is always - always - grace to be found in the journey.  Join Anna on IG @annajseeley for more encouragement and a peek at her everyday life (aka - coffee, kids and chaos)!

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