Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hurting for the Holidays: Taking Care of Me by Mandy Hansen
photo by Jennifer Upton

For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays.  Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season.  Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.

This year there has been a slight shift in my emotional holiday readiness. I want to celebrate but only on my terms and my terms sort of make me sound like a b-word, if you catch my drift.  And it's because I'm still angry and filled with guilt because of my anger at people who don't deserve it and have done nothing to me other than have children.  I'm angry because I don't have my children with me and I'd be preparing right now to have a baby and I feel like no one else realizes that or has thought of it in any way.

I want to bake all my families goodies like I used to do when I was younger.  I want to decorate a tree and put sparkling lights up. I want to dig out my Christmas ornaments finally and tell my husband the story behind each one. I want to actually wrap presents and make my homemade bows I used to be known for once upon a time.  I want to watch all the Christmas movies and cartoons.

But . . .

. . . I don't want to share it. 
I don't want to be around the other children. 
I don't want to be around the extended family. 
I don't want to deal with all the social niceties that comes with being around the extended family.  

I just want to be with my husband and my dog.  I don't have to be "on" for either of them and have stupid idle chatter fake smiles, fake "ohhhh and ahhhh" at the gifts, to be shown by the kids what toy they got.

Last year I barely remember any of the holiday celebrations.  I remember Thanksgiving because we celebrated with friends and there was a food fight. Epic. Christmas I really don't remember at all.  I know we went to two places but what we ate, who got what, and so forth is blank.  I just didn't care.  I didn't care what the kids got or what news was shared.  

Now, I realize this is a me issue, absolutely, but at some point I need to take care of me.  

What's worse is there are certain kids I want to buy for and share the experience with.  It's like my brain has picked and chosen which children are okay to be around.  There are just some children I get more joy out of than others and I don't know why and it does make me feel like I'm sort of crazy.  It feels like a really cruel version of picking kids for a team on the playground when we were younger.

I have not yet figured out how to get over this newest grief hurdle. I don't want to snub the extended family. I'm not so sure my husband would support me in not going. I think at some point you have to make your own traditions and no one should fault you for doing so and not including them.  

This is just the newest challenge that has presented itself in this journey we call grief and I'll make it through just as we all are.

I am so grateful for Mandy sharing her raw [and very legitimate] feelings about enduring the holidays while nursing deep wounds.  And I think that many of us can empathize with her words, whether we are mourning babies gone too soon or older loved ones or something else entirely.  Self-care is a very important holiday "tradition" to cultivate.  What can you do this year to take care of you?
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Mandy Hansen has been trying for a baby for almost seven years and has had three losses in a span of ten years.  She has been involved in the infertility and loss community for over four years, giving a voice to those who stay silent for whatever reason they need to.  

Mandy blogs about her struggle with infertility and her losses at Serenity Someday and is a regular contributor for Still Standing Magazine, an online publication for babyloss and infertility.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King