And when do you go on vacation?

by Claudia Ravaldi

A very common feature of bereavement is that it also makes situations that are usually interesting, pleasant and easy to deal with for other people. Holidays in general, anniversaries and holidays are typical examples of situations that can put a strain on couples with recent perinatal bereavement.

“Now go on vacation for a while so you get distracted!”

Raise your hand if, after a perinatal bereavement, you have heard this phrase (and beware of the movement of air).

Vacation is a mythical word in our popular imagination. An almost panacea.

For many people it is synonymous with fun, relaxation, joy, rest, carefree. And this is very beautiful and also plausible.

For people with a recent bereavement, however, that is, for those who are experiencing the first year after the loss, the holidays can instead be synonymous with torture, nervousness, tension, estrangement, anxiety.

Recognizing the pitfalls that lurk in our daily lives, even in seemingly simple decisions such as choosing a place and time for vacation, can be very useful for our well-being and for mourning.

The goal is to reflect on the problem in detail and then make the most appropriate choices for us. There is no universal rule, but many rules and many choices, the right ones for each couple.

-Where are you going this year? – everyone asks us, ready to give us unsolicited good advice.

Choosing where , when and with whom is complex for the bereaved.

Where to go : Returning to the usual vacation spots where other people were aware of the pregnancy can be experienced as too stressful. Not all parents want to openly tell their story of loss, even after a few months, to people who do not belong to the closest circle of friends or relatives.

At the same time, going to a completely new place, devoid of reference points, can be stressful because it forces the couple to deal in detail with practical aspects and many news: especially in the first months of mourning, the energy to live everyday life is scarce, and being helped even in small things can be the greatest possible ambition.

When to go : choosing the same time of the year can implicitly or explicitly reactivate the memories, expectations, dreams made the year before, in those moments. Memories, you know, when they arrive, they come in company: together with memories, anniversaries bring specific emotions, thoughts and sensations, sometimes very unpleasant (somatizations, anxiety attacks, drastic changes in mood). Ask yourself the impact it might have for you to retrace certain memories a year later and where you prefer to tackle the most critical anniversaries.

With whom : Holidays are a time of year when families or groups of friends meet and spend a lot of time together to share the vacation experience. Those who have a recent bereavement are fundamentally already very busy working through grief in all the facets that bereavement presents to us from time to time: the energy to be company, or to be patient with the talkative cousin, the sister-in-law who is always on a diet. or the gossipy mother-in-law could be cut to the bone. When you have little energy and are in mourning, priority should be given to our health, physical and mental, and therefore to the elaboration of mourning.

Hence, even more than in normal life, during a bereavement it is necessary to choose carefully the company for the holidays, in order to avoid that critical or frankly pathological relational dynamics overlap the elaboration of the bereavement.

We also consider that the couple facing grief also faces a more intimate work of redefining their roles and identity (as a couple, but also as individuals who form a couple: it is important that the couple mutually gratify and gratify each other. one and the other partner, for the work done after the loss and for the work still to be done. It is very important that the couple devote part or all of the holiday period to themselves, without wasting too much energy trying to act “as if nothing had happened” or as if “the holiday should resolve the grief and make us come back as new. “.

Facing openly the various difficulties and identifying the most suitable solutions therefore has an important objective: to use the vacation time we have available in the best possible way, and to use it in a participatory and active way.

Read: choose what to do with your time and also with your grief without simply and passively waiting for time to pass, without being dragged into holidays that we would never have chosen to do or that we have always detested.

Therefore, if properly organized, holidays can also be a resource for the parent with a recent perinatal bereavement.

Whether the bereavement concerns the first child, or whether there are already other children in the family.

Spending some time planning intelligent “holidays”, with respect to our psychophysical state and our condition as bereaved parents is therefore very sensible and highly recommended.

Especially if you belong to that category of bereaved parents who cannot find peace anywhere, who would be able to see a newborn sitting in the stands from the third tier of San Siro, and if every place always seems too full: full of bellies, full of dads with children on their backs, full of double or triple strollers. The in vivo exposure to life that overflows everywhere is for many parents a kind of initiatory rite during the mourning process: in this sense, choosing to go on vacation to a place renowned for family services could be too much for couples without children, who risk spending all their time locked in a hotel watching one TV series after another. Knowing your limits is not a sign of weakness, but on the contrary of strength and foresight. If you do not tolerate the sight of babies (it will pass, sooner or later it will all), choose a “strategic” vacation.

There are also those who appreciate the idea of going on vacation, but feel guilty for the simple fact of wanting, after a bereavement, to change scenery and see new places.

Guilt is part of the grieving model’s kit, and all grieving parents, sooner or later, hit their noses at the unpleasant feeling of being out of place, too well, somehow “suffering too little.” Many bereaved parents feel guilty, embarrassed, ashamed the first few times they experience desires, or glimpses of joy, or interest in something other than grief and the lost child. Usually these emotions tend to inhibit exploratory behavior and therefore amputate the parent’s planning. I would like to say that after dealing with these negative emotions, particularly persistent in the first two years of mourning, I have discovered that we must not pay too much attention to the talking cricket in us: it is not true that those in mourning cannot laugh or have fun, neither eat well, nor fill your eyes with beauty.

The opposite is true: those in mourning need a convalescence to “heal” from the void of absence, and transform it into opportunity.

Vacation can be a part of this long recovery. In its double etymological meaning of “to be free, but also to be empty.

Being empty is a frightening sensation known to parents in perinatal bereavement. A horrible feeling, which those who have tried it will not forget.

Fill yourself with beauty, nature, wonder, or at least try.

That’s why even for just 24 hours, every bereaved couple should go on vacation.

Thinking of Saint Malò, summer 2006, the tide full of wind and my tears for the big brother double strollers – newborn.

Thinking about how that beauty has imperceptibly scratched the void.

Let it be a good vacation.

You can’t be unhappy when you have this: the smell of the sea, the sand under your fingers, the air, the wind.
Irène Némirovsky

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