The holidays are a time where it seems everyone is filled with joy and happiness and often, we feel that there is an expectation to be. However, the things we go through all year round don't just pause because it's the holidays. For those of us experiencing (in)fertility or grieving, it may feel like these things are amplified. As we approach the fall and winter months, we tend to reflect more on the past year–while others may look back on the year with joy and positivity, many of us are looking back on another year with no baby, failed attempts or treatments, a year of loss or a year in which they received news that changed the trajectory of their future family plans. While some are excited for turkey dinners and gifts, others are hoping that no one asks them when they are going to start a family.
If you resonate with any of this, we want you to know that you are not alone. You do not have to be happy when you're grieving or hurting, just because it's the holiday season. Feeling sad is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it something you need to hide. While these feelings will pass, it is important to let yourself work through them rather than suppressing them. For those of you who are struggling this holiday season, we've created some tips to help you navigate the holidays while grieving or experiencing (in)fertility.
This can be hard one for many people to do with family–but it is important and rewarding in the end. Setting boundaries could look like directly telling someone that you would like them not to ask about pregnancy or your family – or it could look like turning down an invite to a Christmas party that you are not in the emotional space to attend. Boundaries can be set a variety of different ways and they can help you manage your stress and anxiety during the holiday season.
If you're not able to skip out on a gathering and you feel like might receive questions or comments that may trigger you, create a plan of action. If someone asks a question about when you're going to have a baby, or makes a comment regarding pregnancy or fertility, make sure you have a response plan. Here are some options that may help:
How to answer "when are you going to have kids?"
Using humour or sarcasm to brush off the comment: Sometimes you can easily brush off a comment by using humour or sarcasm to divert the conversation–this option is usually best when the comment is coming from someone you might not want to offend, like a grandparent, uncle or your boundary-crossing boss.
For example, if someone asks "so, when are you going to have a baby?" your response could be something like:
"As soon as I figure out how! Got any suggestions?"
"I'm trying to build a solid list of 'diaper-changers', first. Can I count you in?"
If you're with your partner: "I'm the only baby they need right now!"
If you're feeling a little spicier, you could try:
"What answer could I give you for you to stop asking?"
"Why? Are you finally sick of talking about yours?"
"Oh, I don't know... probably when you learn to mind your business."
Avoid by diverting the conversation: Having a solid phrase to divert the conversation may be a great option if confrontation isn't really your thing. Typically, if you try pretending you didn't hear them and changing the conversation, most people will get the hint–however, if they don't, here's a few phrases that may change the conversation quick:
"Hold that thought, I need to use the restroom–excuse me!" (and obviously 'forget' to come back)
"Oh my gosh, that reminds me I forgot to pick up a gift for my [nephew/niece/cousin] what would you get an 8-year-old that loves [insert topic here]"
Sorry, I'm just so distracted by your [insert item of clothing they are wearing/art piece in their home] can you tell me about it?
Lean on your support system
Talk to someone you trust, makes you feel empowered and supports you. Open up to them about your worries and struggles during the holidays. If there is a concern you have about a guest attending a party, open up to your friends and family about it and hopefully they are able to help mediate the situation. You might end up pleasantly surprised by how great your family is at diverting conversations!
At the end of the day, you are your biggest cheerleader and protector. Take care of yourself first. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and never apologize for it. Don't feel guilty for skipping out on a Christmas party, family event or gathering to take care of and protect your mental health. You deserve to be able to show up as your best self when you can–that may mean taking sometime to rest now.
For more tips and advice on navigating the holidays, make sure you follow us on social media where we will be discussing different topics and coping mechanisms every day of December.