If you are having your holiday with a sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, parent, grandparent, neighbor or friend who has had a loss, it is there. Can you see it? You may be standing right on it, desperately trying to ignore it. But it is there--The Elephant In The Room. Those of us who have had losses are trying very hard not to look at it as well, least you all think we are crazy. Of course, the farther away from your loss you are, the more people think you are insane if you point it out. While you are dying to shout it out, you might just keep quiet and wait until someone asks. Oh that? Those pictures over there? Yes, that is my Elephant In The Room. I had a baby girl, and she died. If you are closer to your loss, the desire to set up a shrine in the middle of the dining room table with candles and flowers and blow horns around your Elephant is almost unbearable. THIS IS MY ELEPHANT! you'll want to yell, SOMEONE PLEASE LOOK AT MY ELEPHANT!
One of the most common questions/statements I get when I give talks about infant and pregnancy loss is something along the lines of, "Oh, I knew about [The Elephant] but I didn't want to mention it. I didn't want to upset anyone." My response is always the same--it isn't upsetting...at least not in the way you might think. Let's look at this. Thanksgiving dinner is coming and you notice that there is no candle or special memory card out for your cousin's Elephant. You say, "Would you like me to light a candle in honor of your Elephant?" There are two possible answers to this. A) "Oh thank you so much for thinking of our Elephant, but we prefer to light his/her candle later, with just the two of us." or B) "OH THANK YOU FOR REMEMBERING! I really wanted to light a candle but didn't want anyone to think I was forcing my grief onto you! I'm so happy you thought of my Elephant!"
See? Neither of those possible answers is upsetting at all. But the question--the question that you asked--brought The Elephant front and center. And the grieving family will thank you for it. Because here is the secret--one of the most treasured gifts you can ever give a grieving family is the sound of their Elephant's name. They want to know that their Elephant isn't just important to them, but to many. They want to know that their Elephant was real and had an impact beyond their own walls. They want to know their Elephant is remembered. And with one question, you gave them all of that. All of it.
Holidays are a challenge for everyone, no doubt. But a grieving family is eating their turkey, doing their shopping, buying gifts and trying to spread some cheer while silently remembering their Elephant. Please remember this when you are celebrating with them. It could make all the difference.