[cue the music]
It’s the most won-der-ful time of the year...!
Well, that’s debatable.
The holidays are stressful even under the most ideal circumstances. But for those experiencing loss, it can be the darkest, most depressing time of year.
Every year around this time, I get flooded with fertility clients all sharing some version of…
- “I feel more depressed than ever right now...”
- “I don’t know why I feel worse than I did 2 weeks ago, nothing’s really changed...”
- “Ugh, I'm such a scrooge...I can’t get into the holiday spirit at all.”
- “I just want to run away and wait until it’s all over.”
Most don’t even understand why they feel the shift.
So, why are the holidays so hard during infertility?
The Holiday Season marks another year without a baby
Another year has passed and it feels like all there is to show for it is 15 extra lbs. from all the hormones and a much smaller bank account.
The Holidays are child-centric
The imagery is inescapable: Santa bringing gifts for everyone else's children, toy advertisements at every commercial, and holiday cards with photos of perfect families invading your mailbox. For goodness sake, even Mary's miraculous conception and baby Jesus in the nativity can be a trigger.
It can be so difficult to find your holiday cheer when everywhere you turn you see painful reminders of what you don’t yet have.
Unrealistic expectations of bliss and joy
Most of us have an ingrained belief, formed deep in the memories of childhood, that the holidays are filled with a magic that makes all things happy.
Our problems should just fade away, our families should start acting normal, and our mood should suddenly be obnoxiously cheerful.
But unfortunately it’s not that simple, and no amount of holiday music will have the miraculous, sustainable antidepressant-effect that we’re looking for.
So when we aren’t magically transformed into this joyful, festive partying chic, we think:
This stark contrast of how we're “supposed” to feel vs. the current reality can intensify the heavy sadness you feel inside.
So, it’s established. The holidays can really suck during infertility.
But there are also certain things we can do to make them less painful.
6 ways to protect YOUR PEACE, LOVE & JOy
#1 – STOP “Should-ing” on yourself
The raw, painful emotions that you're battling are hard enough. You can’t necessarily control these feelings, as they're a natural result of deep loss and fear.
But one thing you can do is ignore your inner critic and STOP JUDGING YOURSELF for having these very normal thoughts and feelings.
In order to feel better, we must eliminate all the “I should’s, I need to’s, and I have to’s.
This is my big rule: “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, then you can't say it to yourself”
Try it out right now. Read these statements below and imagine that one of your beloved friends has your story. Would you ever tell her:
- “Who cares you just had a miscarriage, you should be happy – it’s Christmas for goodness sake!”
- “You need to cheer up and stop being such a horrible scrooge.”
- “You really need to hide all those feelings, and work harder to make me happy.”
- “You should want to hang out with your insensitive family and love holding all those babies that aren’t yours.
- “You really need to get it together and enjoy the holidays”
So, would you say that???
Of course not. So why is it okay to say it to yourself?
If you get one thing from this post, get this…Start talking to yourself like a you are your own best friend. You deserve it, and it will dramatically change the way you feel.
#2 – Be selfish and do what you want
I know you are already balking at this one. “But, my mom…I can't skip…They'll be so mad if I don't...That would be so wrong!”
Take a deep breath.
I want you read the questions below.
After each question, I want you to close your eyes and visualize what your holiday might look like if you could have it exactly your way. Really let yourself dream for a couple minutes.
What would it be like to not be a slave to other people’s rules and traditions?
Where would you go or not go?
Where would you want to stay?
Who do you really want to see? Or not see?
Decorations or not?
Holiday parties? Or a cozy fire and Netflix?
I encourage you to write a list of what came to mind?
Then, I beg you to make it happen!
There are no right or wrong ways spend your holidays. Your family members may have a different opinion on that, but isn’t that really just them being selfish and getting what they want?
Hmm…really think about it for a second.
You are allowed to say no to holiday events and family gatherings that will cause you stress and pain.
Yes, you will likely get some push back from your family, but ask yourself this, “What’s easier to tolerate...hearing their criticism about your absence, or being around insensitive comments about your fertility while stuck knee deep in other people's kids?"
You're going through a really hard time, and you deserve to create (without guilt) your version of what a happy-as-possible holiday looks like.
#3 - When attending an event, have a protective game plan:
I love Monica Ashton's list on this:
- You probably already know who you might have awkward encounters with at the gathering. Preplan what you need to do to take care of yourself and avoid those that are insensitive.
- Have someone you trust speak to the typical offenders prior to the party. Have that trusted person explain to them that you do not wish to talk about having children or fertility treatments, etc.
- Arrive late and leave early, to plan around children opening presents
- Upon arrival find those that you enjoy having conversations with and stick with them throughout the evening.
- Cut off any uncomfortable conversations or change the subject quickly.
- Preplan any answers to statements that are insensitive or offensive.
- Request from the group, if possible, that if they are planning any baby announcements that they let you know prior to the event.
- Have a signal for your spouse/partner to alert them that you are ready to leave.
- Stay in a hotel instead of a family house
#4 – Embrace Online Shopping
Do yourself a favor and avoid the toy store, the long lines of kids waiting for Santa, and experience the gift that is Amazon. Why not even treat yourself and get it pre-wrapped too!
#5 – Beware of Christmas Cards and Social Media!
If you felt sick every time you ate at a certain restaurant, you'd stop eating there, right? I want you to take the same care here and start filtering what you allow your eyes to see that will inevitably trigger painful emotions.
Seeing all those Christmas cards and endless social media posts of all of your friends’ kids can be torture. So, set those cards aside for another time (or even throw them out) and block those feeds for a while!
#6 –Lastly, remember that this season is only temporary and it won't last forever.
If you have gotten this far, you are probably deep in the camp of "All I want for Christmas is for it to be over."
We can't make the pain of infertility miraculously disappear during the holidays. Man, do I wish we could.
But by knowing that the holiday blues are to be expected and making a plan on how to best take care of yourself, you can definitely improve your chances of not dreading it quite so much and maybe just maybe, experience some genuine moments of peace, love, and joy this holiday season.
It's almost over, and a new year is coming, friend.
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