We’re coming up to the first day of school in Canada and in many other parts of the world. Some US states may have even already started this week. Today, I’m talking about how to get through the back-to-school season after a loss.
After my miscarriages, Mother’s Day and the first day of school were among the hardest of days.
Just seeing all the first day of school pictures broke my heart, knowing that I would never go back-to-school shopping for my three babies or post pictures of them all over social media. All those cute kiddos in their new outfits, smiling and ready for their first day was enough to get me way down in the dumps and feeling sorry for myself. Are you with me?
The other trigger for me is my girlfriend’s daughter. You see, my friend and I were pregnant at the same time. Our girls would have been born just a few months apart so our kids would have grown up together. They would have been in the same grade at school. They likely would have played together while her mom and I had afternoon tea.
And I love this kid. She’s adorable. But she’s also a constant reminder of how old my own child would have been. This year? Going into senior kindergarten. It can be a lot to bear when I see her little face in first-day-of-school pictures.
At some point, though, I decided I wanted to celebrate all these little munchkins instead of lamenting the loss of my own and our future together. Instead of going through the same pain, year after year, I eventually had to do something.
So, I took some action towards my own healing and came up with some strategies for keeping my peace.
Here are my top strategies for navigating the back-to-school season:
First, I get out my essential oils. In my early days of oil use, it didn’t really occur to me to use them for emotional health. But then doTERRA came out with an emotional aromatherapy kit and I dove in. (Buy it here)
On the first day of school, I tend to use a lot of the Console Comforting blend and it really does make me feel better. Something in my heart just shifts when I breathe it in.
Next, I honour whatever feelings are coming up for me. It was tempting to judge myself for feeling envy or jealousy for the other women who get to do all the things with their children that I don’t. I told myself that it’s wrong to feel this way. But at the same time, telling myself that it’s wrong, only led to guilt over feeling that way and then I was just filled with more negative emotions.
Now, I say honour your feelings. Whatever they are. It’s normal and it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling. If you’re triggered, envious, jealous or just feeling sad over what could have been. Let yourself feel the feelings.
Third, I pick up a pen and my journal. If you’ve been with me for a while and you still haven’t picked up a journal, get to it.
I understand, it’s hard to get yourself to do it, but when you do, you will thank me. Journal writing is so therapeutic. It allows you to uncover so much about yourself and why you feel the way you do. And that’s what is healing.
I have 4 journal exercises for you that will make it easier to get at all those emotions. All it takes is 15 minutes of writing and you will feel better. Set a timer for at least 5 minutes per question. You want to stir things up, not just hit the surface.
Here are 4 journal exercises that will help you get through the first days of school:
Exercise 1: Write about all the emotions that are coming up for you when you think of back-to-school season. Dig into each of those emotions. Start with: I feel ________ because _______________.
- Examples: sad, angry, annoyed, hopeless, anxious.
- Write about why you feel that way. What beliefs do you have that are making you feel that way?
Exercise 2: Write about your triggers. Start with: I am triggered by __________ because_________ and I feel this way because______.
- How does the trigger make you feel flawed? At the bottom of it, you may find that it’s a feeling of not being enough, in some way.
Exercise 3: Who you compare yourself to? When it comes to back-to-school, we typically compare ourselves to other moms, dads or families. We want what they have. Or we miss what we would have had. We compare our worth to them.
- Write about who you think they comparing themselves to. Example: moms compare themselves to other moms. They also compare their kids to other kids. They feel like they have to measure up to all the other moms and they’re not a good one unless they take pictures of their kids going off to school in their new outfits.
- If you imagine that you are a friend who is feeling flawed, what would you tell yourself? What would you say to her? Say those words to yourself.
Exercise 4: Write down what you can appreciate about where you are in your life right now. You cannot fully feel satisfied with where you’re going until you can accept, acknowledge, and appreciate where you are now.
- Examples: think of people you’ve met as a result of your path, things you’ve done, things you’ve learned, things you’re now doing differently as a result of your loss.
References from this episode: