I recently went through a miscarriage and wasn’t expecting to feel so overwhelmed and sad. I want to make the holidays special for my toddler this year, but I’m not sure I can manage it. How do I heal and move on while caring for another kid and myself? What do I tell my toddler about why mommy is crying?
I asked my friend Marisa Renee Lee, the author of Grief Is Love, to weigh in here. Her book is the best one I’ve read on grief, and you can listen to her in tomorrow’s podcast episode as well.
Let me begin by saying I am sorry. Pregnancy loss is often less than visible, but that does not make it any less real, and what you are going through is really hard.
Before you move into the business of making the holidays special for your toddler, I hope you can give yourself permission to grieve. Oftentimes we make grief harder, and healing less accessible, by denying ourselves the right to be sad. In a culture that is always pushing for positivity — especially during the holiday season — it can be hard to just be sad, so I hope you will give yourself that.
Second, when we experience loss, we are not required to move on. Give yourself space to move through the pain, and when it comes to your toddler, tell them a version of the truth. With my 2-year-old, I use language he can understand and I remind him that it is okay to be sad sometimes, because it is. Try “Mommy is crying just like you cry when you don’t get dessert or can’t find your lovey. I’m feeling sad right now, and I’m going to let myself feel sad before we make our breakfast.” Those examples are what my son cries over, but feel free to insert your own. Keep it simple, but don’t hide your pain. Raising resilient kids means creating space for the myriad emotions that arise in this life, not solely happiness and joy. And when it comes to making the holidays “special,” let go of that pressure. From the perspective of a toddler, Christmas is already special enough — loads of sugar, a guy who visits at night and leaves you presents (!), plus more quality time with mom and dad is more than enough. Do not buy into anyone else’s expectations around what qualifies as special, because deep down we all know it really doesn’t take much to impress a toddler!
Healing requires us to be honest about our pain, to be intentional about our care, and to create space for joy. As you move through this holiday season, alongside the caretaking and magic-making you’re doing for your child, I hope you will create space for your own healing as well.