The holidays are expected to be the most joyous time of the year. But for some families, it is the time of year that most intensifies both sadness and stress. Families who have been waiting for a child often feel additional grief and loss during the holidays. These feelings of emptiness can be overwhelming. The emphasis on children is highlighted during this season, often leaving childless families feeling isolated. I remember well the pain after attending countless events with my family and friends at which we were the only couple without children. I could barely escape without either crying or screaming, “Why me?” and “Where is my baby?!” My husband had to drag me to holiday parties and events. I would put a plastic smile on my face and say “I’m so happy to be here,” when in reality I wanted to hide in my bed and wait for the holidays to be over!
Remember that your feelings are “normal,” whatever they may be and that each person copes differently with loss. My husband was always so calm and patient. “We will be parents soon,” he would say, as I cried hysterically. We were definitely not on the same page when it came to coping with being childless during the holidays! At times, I felt really alone in my sadness and wondered how he could be functioning so well, while I was falling apart. Couples often feel distant during this time because of the different feelings and coping styles each partner may have. Eventually, I was able to acknowledge that my husband was not a cold-hearted person who did not want to have children! Rather, he was a person who was able to stay hopeful and see the forest through the trees. We were going to be parents — somehow, someway — and our marriage was going to be stronger after making it through this painful time in our lives.
We are now parents to three wonderful, challenging young adults who were definitely worth the wait!
Tips for survival:
1) Take care of yourself! If you don’t feel like attending holiday events that will be painful, give yourself permission to stay home. Plan another activity that is more adult-centered than child-and-family-centered.
2) Educate your family and friends. So often, family and friends try to help relieve your pain, but in reality, the comments they make tend to be insensitive and irritating. Give your family and friends a list of helpful comments and not-so-helpful comments during the holidays.
3) Take a vacation from the adoption process. I know… easier said than done! But a week or two off during the holidays will not delay the adoption process. Give yourself a break from paperwork, research and anything else concerning the adoption.
4) Utilize laughter. I remember making a list of all the ridiculous comments people made during my six years of infertility and laughing every time I read the list. Laughter relieves stress and takes your mind off the adoption, if just for a minute.
To read more about how to survive the holidays, click here!
Remember you are stronger than you think and you will get through the holidays!
Nancy Crouch | Director of Domestic Adoption and Birth Parent Services