Has this every happened to you?
For the first time in a long time, you’ve got a bit of energy and you can actually focus and get some work done. You’re feeling a bit of relief from the usual pangs of grief and dare I say it- even a bit optimistic and hopeful about the future. You even catch yourself singing along to the radio.
You then open your mailbox and find a little pink envelope with your name on it.
Must be another one of the sympathy cards.
Your mood drops a bit as you tear open the envelope but you’re still hanging in there. Until you see the picture of a cartoon stork carrying a newborn and a caption that reads: “You’re invited to Sarah’s Baby Shower!!!!” Suddenly you can’t breathe, you can’t speak. You slump down to the kitchen floor where your husband finds you curled up on the tiles, bawling and incoherent as you try to explain what just happened. Instead, you simply hold up the card as you gasp and wail.
Ohhh the dreaded baby shower invites. They can send us into a total anxiety spiral and reopen all the wounds we thought we had carefully closed already.
So what do you do now?
Here’s 5 ideas to make it easier to RSVP “NO” when needed:
1. Give yourself permission to put your own needs first
If it just feels way too hard right now to go, don’t. Why do we feel like we have to “be there” for other people no matter the cost to ourselves? If the thought of going is totally overwhelming and panic provoking, consider the option of sitting this one out.
2. Put it into perspective
The truth is her party will go on with, or without you. So let’s stop feeling like the weight of our friend’s celebration rests fully on our shoulders. It doesn’t. There will still be a room full of people giving your friend the celebration is hoping for, whether or not you are there joining in the chorus of cooing as you pass around the onsies.
3. Speak your truth simply and quickly
This doesn’t need to be a dramatic affair. Something honest and straightforward is fine, such as “I really wish I could come but I’m just not ready for that right now. I hope you understand and that we can catch up another time.” Let your friend also know you appreciate being asked. The truth is, this is often unchartered territory for your friends too. And many people wrestle with the question what is good friend etiquette in this situation. I believe that it is more polite to be offered the invitation – and given the power to decide for yourself how you would like to respond- rather than being flat out included. So thank them for giving you the option to participate as you bow out gracefully. There may be a time when you want to go, even if that’s not right now.
4. Show love from a distance
You need to get creative about how to maintain your connection with friends when grief seems to be trying to pry you apart. So consider changing up the ways that you participate in these kind of events. Maybe send a gift card for take-out delivery or a general department store instead giving the typical baby items. Save yourself the unnecessary torture of shopping for things that will break your heart.
5. Lastly, create an opportunity for understanding but don’t demand it
We have no control over how your friend will respond. She may be full of compassion and empathy, or she may explode with bewilderment and frustration. It will be what it will be. The only thing we have control over is who we are in those moments. Grief is awful and it can change so much in our social circles. So take good care of yourself, focus on being who you want to be and come connect with the women who fully understand what you are going through and how hard this really is.
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