Dealing With Grief Over The Christmas Period
During the Christmas season you are with your loved one – putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, spending time with family, enjoying the giving and receiving those special Christmas presents.
It’s fun, it’s family, it’s over indulging in the best food and drink, it’s wishing everyone well and embracing the love of family and friends.
OK, sometimes it can be a little stressful, but we do it – year after year – rushing around getting everything perfect in time for the celebrations.
When you lose a loved one – everything changes
The world spinning around you as you are trying to come to terms with such a tragic loss, stumbling to get through each day whilst being weighed down with the enormity of what’s happening.
The grieving process helps you come to terms with losing a loved one. There are no set rules, no time limits to work within, it’s just you and how you come to terms with your own personal suffering.
Family and friends can be such a source of strength and it is important to take up any offers of help and support if offered.
Some people can bounce back quite quickly and return to their lives near to normal with a happy smile when remembering wonderful times with their lost love. Others can mourn for years and will never come to terms with losing their love.
One thing we do know is each year we have celebrations that will remind us of our love no longer present.
Christmas will soon be upon us. The decorations and tree that you used to love putting up, seems to have lost its sparkle and leaves you with a feeling of emptiness and dread. The thought of being with family and friends who are getting into the Christmas spirit fills you with unbearable pain as you feel so alone.
You are not alone. You are not the baa humbug of the family
You may be feeing angry, sad, guilt, joy, relief – maybe all these emotions and more, this is perfectly normal and are expected.
Whether this is your first Christmas alone or your 50th there are ways of coping, and you will get through this. This year … and the next … and the next.
We remember our past Christmases filled with happy memories. We can stand still and remember those times and then feel sad that we will be unable to create new memories together, bogging us down with sadness and loneliness. Or we can remember those times with a smile on our face and then think of all the things we do have around us.
So, what can we do to help us get through Christmas?
Be kind to yourself
The decorations, the buying of presents, the wrapping, the food shopping, cooking and the entertaining – is it really what you want to do? Is it all necessary?
You’re grieving, give yourself a little time to decide what you really want to do and what you can realistically cope with.
You decide what you can cope with. It could be the minimum; it could be full on – everyone is different so be honest with yourself and create a schedule that suits you.
Tell others your needs
It’s difficult for friends and family to know your needs if you don’t tell them. Talk to them about your plans over the Christmas period. By telling them how you are feeling and what you want, you can create a better understanding of how they can support you.
Maybe you would prefer to talk about your lost loved one, share memories and reminisce. You may prefer not to talk about them at all. We are all different and there is no right or wrong way of grieving.
By telling friends and family what your plans are, you are in control of your holiday season.
Most people will be supportive and help you any way they can. If a friend or family member is unsupportive, you have the right to walk away to put your needs first.
Give yourself time
You may prefer to spend Christmas alone, giving yourself time to come to terms with your loss without people around you. Giving yourself space to grieve in your own time and in your own space.
Perhaps being with friends and family feels better for you. Maybe popping outside to get some fresh air or going for a walk alone after lunch could be an option. Planning to spend part of the day with others and then saying goodbye and leave when you are ready.
Talk to friends and family
No one else can feel your pain, your grief and what you are going through. What they can do is listen and support you. It can be very therapeutic talking to people you trust about your loss.
By sayings to others it’s ok, you could share memories, stories and tales about your lost loved one. Sometimes having those around you during the Christmas period and reminiscing can ease the pain you are feeling somewhat. By surrounding yourself with loved ones, it may feel easier for the tears to flow and the rawness to ebb slightly.
Maybe for the first Christmas without your loved one or as a new tradition to carry on every year, why not think about doing things slightly differently.
A pyjama day. Instead of dressing in your usual Christmas jumper on Christmas day, why not stay in PJs, asking visitors to do the same.
Instead of a traditional Christmas tree, why not hang a few decorations on a branch or two found whilst our walking in your favourite park.
When laying the Christmas table, leave a place at the table for your lost loved one. Place a candle in their place.
Enjoy a very special Christmas toast in their honour. This could be just you, toasted with your love and your memories. Alternatively, it could be at the table with friends and family. Again, there is no right or wrong way in doing this.
Remembering your loved one at Christmas
Maybe you would like to spend Christmas as you had always done. Maintaining traditions can help keep fond memories alive and being able to still feel that bond with your loved one is a very important factor for many people.
If you had always put the Christmas music on whilst decorating the tree; by carrying on this tradition it can bring back loving memories that will make you smile again.
Is there a traditional Christmas movie that you sat down to after lunch every Christmas? This could be a good time to sit with a photo album thumbing through photographs whilst watching the film.
Feeling that connection again is something that you may want to keep forever. It could be that in finding little things you used to do together at Christmas enables you to feel this.
Other Ways to Remember Your Loved One at Christmas
Memorial Christmas Decoration
Memorial jewellery and keepsakes have become a very popular way of remembering loved ones. There are some beautiful memorial tree decorations that can adorn your Christmas tree. We have heard that many of our tree decorations are hung near a window and displayed throughout the year in memory of a loved one.
There is a lady living near to me that lost her husband many years ago. Each year she gathers all her materials and makes wreaths – one for her husband’s grave, others for herself, for her daughter, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. One wreath is displayed on his grave, the others are hung at the door of the houses every Christmas in memory of her dearly departed husband.
An alternative to a traditional wreath could be one made of photographs as well as memorabilia you have kept that could be hung around to create a wreath shape. This could be displayed in an entrance to your home as a Christmas memorial to your loved one.
For some, Christmas may be a time in which being amongst family and friends is too much to bear. A constructive way to channel grief could be by volunteering. There are many organisations that would welcome a volunteer during the holiday season.
There could be something that you are already involved in such as caring for the homeless or a children’s centre. An animal centre will also welcome volunteers. This could be a wonderful way of helping others in memory of your loved one.
Above all, during the holiday season, it is vital that you care about yourself and to put your needs first.
Christmases will be different from now on and, with time, you will begin to enjoy the season again. Grief has no time limit to it. Allow yourself time to grieve and adjust to a new normal life. With family and friends around you that are wanting to help, you will eventually find the strength to honour your loved one as they would have liked to have honoured you.