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Coping at Christmas

Coping at Christmas

It doesn’t matter if your loved one was your friend, a relative, or your bestie at work. Coping with grief during Christmas and even the thought of celebrating Christmas can be really daunting. Whilst nothing can fill the hole someone has left, and it will be different, there are some suggested ways to cope better with grief this Christmas.

Consider different ways of celebrating

It usually helps to plan ahead. Think about what your plans are for the weeks ahead and who you’d like to spend time with. Don’t feel pressured to have Christmas as usual if it doesn’t feel right. Christmas time filled with cheer, traditions, and love, can be triggering for anyone who’s lost someone important in their life. For others that well rehearsed routine and familiarity is comforting and necessary. Plan the Christmas that feels right for you.

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”

Henry Havelock Ellis

It may take time before you find this balance. Give yourself grace as you go through the holiday season without your loved one, whether it’s the first one or many years down the line.

Take a media break

Those Christmas films and social media can fill your screens with images of happy families celebrating together. If it is getting too much, consider taking a break from TV and social media and getting some fresh air instead.

Differences matter

Grief is different for everyone. We are mourn differently. At Christmas time, expectations and sensitivities can be heightened.

Allow family members to share different ideas about how they might want to spend the festive season, talk openly and accept that the normal agreements may be harder to find and compromises necessary.

Allow everyone the space to express and work their own way through this difficult period.

Remember them

Don’t let the proverbial elephant in the room ruin Christmas. Remember the person you have lost, in the ways that feel right for you. There are many ways to bring your loved one into the Christmas celebrations.

This can be as simple as “speaking to them” silently or out loud, visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them.

The Forever Loved how to cope at Christmas

Some people still lay a place at the Christmas dinner table, light a candle. Serve their favourite wine, drink or cook their favourite food to celebrate them. Carry on traditions they embraced by hanging up the stockings or writing the Christmas cards. Take the time to listen, sing, and maybe even dance to their favourite Christmas songs to help you feel connected. Share stories. Play their favourite board game. Put “their” flowers on the table.

You can also create something new this Christmas in their memory.

  • Find a unique ornament for the tree that reminds you of them, or something they loved to do (sport, animals, work) or make your own glass bauble maybe with their photo in (we love shopping for things like this at Etsy)
  • Create a string of photo bunting for the tree (we love these online Poloroid / retro photo making sites such as https://www.photobox.co.uk/shop/prints/retro-prints)
  • Make a memory wreath for the door
  • Volunteer at a charity / cause they were passionate about
  • Do a Santa Run or other Christmas fundraiser they would have appreciated
  • Have a toast in their honour
  • Bring items together to create a family memory box full of things that have meaning to each person
  • Make a quilt or cushion from their clothing, scarves etc
  • And if you know someone that is grieving, how about giving them a memory bear for Christmas, made with a keepsake of their clothing? (photo from https://www.memorybears.co.uk/)

It’s okay

It is completely normal for life to feel like it’s been flipped upside down and that everything around you is happening in a blur. You might burst into tears this year. You might get angry quicker with the people around you. Find it harder to make small talk. You might start to feel anxious, worrying about how you’ll get through. Know that these feelings are all normal.

“And lastly, remember that it is okay to cry.”

Richard Kauffmank

All emotions – sadness, joy or any other – take up energy. Take regular breaks and schedule in some downtime or me time. Day to day you won’t know necessarily how you will be coping or feeling. So be kind to yourself. Try not to ‘over-do’ things. Be honest with yourself during this time and create a schedule with as little or as much activity that allows you to feel what you need to feel.

Don’t feel guilty about the things you think you ‘should’ be doing. Let go of expectations of the could-haves and should-haves. It’s okay to not be okay.

While some people may openly express their emotions, others may compartmentalise their grief and avoid their emotions. But if you want to cry, cry. Tears are an important and, for some, necessary part of grief. And usually you will feel better afterwards.

Leave if you need

“It’s coming on Christmas. They’re cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

Joni Mitchell

There are usually fond memories associated with loved ones around the holidays. When someone is missing that heaviness and feeling of isolation can take over, moving into a standpoint focussing on the loss rather than the memories of happy times.

For some it’s important at this point to surround themselves with friends and family, to talk to people or organisations that can support them.

For others the way to move forward is to step away! So if you want to go on a yoga or fitness retreat, stay at a hotel for a musical /themed Christmas event, head off on a Mediterranean cruise with friends, volunteer to serve food at a shelter all day, deliver gifts in a hospital, do a Santa swim or just have some time out to walk in the snowy mountains….. do what feels right to you.

Santa swim The Forever Loved