Holidays are full of only joy, happiness, and contentment, right? Nope. No one is 100% joyful through the holidays; and when you’re in the middle of grief, you can feel like punching Santa in the face.
There have been times in my life when I’ve struggled with loss of a loved one or difficulty having the family I dreamed of, and I felt like I was walking through life in a dark cloud. I’d see people going about daily life – ordering at Starbucks, laughing while walking down the street – and want to burst with ‘How can you be normal!’ While struggling to conceive – I saw pregnant bellies everywhere - plastered on People magazine, women in the grocery line, baby announcements, baby showers and more. With each trigger I felt empty, isolated and thought to myself ‘Everyone else has the family they want – why not me?’
In this day and age of social media and constant screen time – we are bombarded with images of other people’s ‘perfect’ family lives. Kids on Santa’s lap, holiday cards full of smiling families, ads for toys, kids everywhere! We are constantly reminded of how happy we should be and can feel down when we feel we aren’t living up to the expectations the season can bring. With the New Year coming, we can be reminded of goals we haven’t achieved – especially having the family we want. Dealing with infertility and miscarriage during the holidays can add a whole new level of stress to our lives. You can make this season more tolerable and even more joyful for yourself by being mindful of the added stress and planning ahead for self-care.
Tips for surviving the holiday season while trying to conceive
1. Limit your exposure to triggers. You can predict tough situations so try to plan ahead. You do not have to open every holiday card. Mute certain people on your social media feed temporarily (you’re not unfollowing them, but you can limit seeing their family photos for the holiday season) or take a complete social media break for a little while – you may love it. Limit time at social gatherings you need to go to but know will be tough (arrive late and leave early). Do your holiday shopping at off hours with less crowds and fewer kids or at home and online. Stay connected with people through the holidays but try to limit exposure to tough reminders in a season full of them.
2. Do something for yourself. Find time to do something you truly enjoy. Book a massage, plan a night or two away at an inn or spa with a lot of pampering, set aside time to read a book you enjoy, go hiking or on a few long walks, have lunch with a friend, or go to a movie. There are so many holiday commitments – office parties and family gatherings – that take up our free time during the holidays, and we can forget to do activities that we enjoy for ourselves. Take time out for yourself during this busy time of year.
3. Try something new. Is there a cooking class or exercise class you’ve being thinking of trying? Have you thought of trying an art class, a writing seminar, or taking up a new instrument? Try guitar, making sushi, tequila tasting, glass blowing, a new book club. Think outside your comfort zone! By trying something new, you may discover an activity or hobby you truly enjoy and the benefit of distraction during grief can be healing.
4. Do something for others. Surprise your partner or dear friend with a special weekend away or dinner – focusing on giving to someone else can be healing. Another way to give back and help others any time of year can be volunteering – serve dinner at a soup kitchen, give out supplies at a shelter, wrap presents for children’s charities. As Auntie Claus says (one of my personal favorite Holiday books) ‘It is far, far better to give than to receive.’ These are wise words – focusing on planning and executing a dinner or outing with a loved one can bring joy not only to that person that knows you’ve planned something – but can fill you up with joy as well! Volunteering and helping others in need can help you reflect on what you are thankful for in your own life. Giving can help you practice gratitude.
5. Find your tribe. Surround yourself with people that lift you up. Make time for people that are a positive influence for you and don’t feel obligated to spend time with people that leave you feeling negative or down. Be mindful of who you spend time with because this can impact your own feelings, mood, and outlook on life. There are many holiday gatherings you may have to attend like office parties or family gatherings (see my blog post on surviving a family holiday gathering) but be deliberate in your own time and make positive choices while building your tribe.
6. Make your own holiday tradition. Many traditions are dictated to us by our family or our society and these may or may not bring us joy. Create your own holiday tradition that you will love. Create a ‘Friends Holiday Party’ and invite people that you truly enjoy being around to lift your spirits in the midst of the other holiday gatherings that may be more obligatory than enjoyable. Watch your favorite holiday movie year after year – I watch ‘Love Actually’ every Thanksgiving weekend as a way to bring in the season as my own tradition. Go ice-skating, make holiday treats to share, make your own holiday cards. A friend of mine has a holiday card party each year where women in the neighborhood get together to address their holiday cards (really we mainly chat and drink wine) but it’s a great idea! Holiday lights can be uplifting – find a local display or driving through neighborhoods with you partner or family and find your favorites. You can create your own meaningful tradition – the possibilities are endless.
Holidays can be stressful for everyone. When you’re trying to conceive and facing a New Year without the family you desire, the season can be full of reminders and triggers that leave you feeling down. Find your own ways to make the season enjoyable for you – limit time in tough situations and choose people and traditions that lift you up. Best wishes this holiday season!
Learn more about infertility and miscarriage with more blog posts at drlorashahine.com.