Coping with baby loss and grief over the festive period

When you’ve been through baby loss, the festive period can be particularly tough. In this blog, Tommy’s midwife Juliette shares some advice for looking after your wellbeing when you’re struggling with the feelings that come with the loss of a baby.

When you’ve lost a baby, special times of year like Eid, Diwali and Christmas can be hard. Whilst your friends and family are getting together to celebrate, you may want to take things slow and give yourself some time to grieve – and that’s okay.

With Christmas and Hanukkah approaching, your experience and feelings might feel like don’t ‘fit’ with the fun and enjoyment had by those around you. In fact, grief itself is often really tiring, which can make social activities or shopping for gifts and food feel even more exhausting or overwhelming.

What’s more, the significance of holidays and festivities can be a difficult reminder of the moments or milestones you’ve missed. If you'd imagined Christmas to be a happy time of preparing to meet your baby or having them with you for the first time, it’s understandable if you’re struggling.

To help you cope with the challenges these times of year can bring, we asked Tommy’s midwife Juliette, to share some tips for looking after your mental health during the festive season. We also asked our community on social media to share their own advice on coping with the holidays – we’ve shared some quotes below.

Be kind to yourself

There is no map to follow in grief, and processing the loss of your baby or babies often doesn’t leave you with much emotional or physical energy to navigate a busy time of year or social gatherings. Take each day as it comes and treat yourself as you would do your closest friend. Allow the days to be as gentle as possible as one year comes to an end and another begins.

“Establish boundaries that will help protect your heart. Try to ignore other people’s expectations of you.”

Give yourself to permission to say no

Looking after yourself is your first priority. That may mean that you choose which, if any, social events you say yes to. It’s okay if the festive period looks different (to you and to others) this year.

“It’s more than okay to turn down social engagements if you can’t face it.”

Also give yourself permission to say yes

There is no pressure to celebrate, but you may feel you would like to be part of festive gathering and activities – and that is completely okay too. There is no right or wrong way of processing grief at any time, particularly during this festive season. Allow yourself to follow your heart’s lead and know that whatever you do or don’t do is not a measure of your love for your baby. That will always be true, no matter what.

“Enjoy plans and socialising if you feel up to it without guilt about being happy.”

Monitor your energy levels

Check in with yourself regularly. Am I feeling that I have enough energy for this? Do I need to slow down a little? Do I need to change my plans so I don’t feel overwhelmed? Give yourself permission to change things even at the last minute if you need to.

“It’s okay if you don’t feel like socialising. Take the time you need to recover and grieve.”

Take care of your physical health

Amongst all the ‘otherness’ of the festive season make sure you continue to prioritise the things we know tend to help us stay as well and emotionally settled as possible – such as sleep, fresh air, gentle exercise, healthy nourishing food.

Remember your baby or babies in a way that feels right to you

Many parents like to include their baby in festivities in special ways. It’s up to you if and how you remember or honour your baby, but you might find it helps you feel closer to them and process how you’re feeling. Here are some ideas our community have shared with us:

  • Having special decorations in honour of your baby
  • Writing a Christmas letter every year and starting a tradition
  • Donating presents to children or money to charity in your baby’s name
  • Visiting your baby’s grave or memorial
  • Include your baby’s name in cards and ask friends and family to do the same.

Share how you’re feeling with a few trusted loved ones

Not everyone needs an explanation, but sharing honestly how you are doing with close loved ones can help you feel less alone or isolated.

“I’ve found talking about my experience with other bereaved mums is a really supportive environment.” 

If you feel like you aren't coping, it’s really important to speak to someone you trust or contact your GP, who will have 24 hours cover over the holiday period.

Although the Tommy’s helpline will be closed between Christmas and the New Year, you can access our baby loss support resources whenever you need them.