Grief at Christmas

Christmas is seemingly a happy time. A time when friends and family gather together and Christmas day is shared with our nearest and dearest. The lead up to Christmas brings competition for the best Christmas advertising campaign, Christmas songs ring out in the shops and on the radio and festive cheer appears to be everywhere.  But when we are grieving, Christmas can be a time of loneliness and sadness. A time when memories of our loved one appear more vivid and the pain of our loss weighs heavier. You may be grieving for someone you lost a while ago or it might be your first Christmas without your loved one. The 2020 lockdown could have prevented you spending your last Christmas together, separating you not through death but by a computer screen or telephone or window.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no instruction manual to tell you how to navigate your way through Christmas but there are things you can do to help you to cope with your grief. As our usual routine is often disrupted, self care can be forgotten. Keeping to a regular pattern of eating, sleeping and exercising and taking time to listen to music, relax in a hot bath or get lost in a good book, can help you to look after yourself.While distraction can give you a break from your grief and help you to cope, allowing yourself to feel can prevent painful emotions from building up and overwhelming you.

Taking each day as it comes and reaching out to friends and family for support, can help you to feel less overwhelmed and isolated. As our journey of grief is unique, sharing how you are feeling and what you need can lessen the challenges that may arise between friends and family. Christmas day often comes with high expectations which can be stressful. To help reduce the pressure you may feel, consider in advance different ways to spend the day that will meet your needs and those that share your loss. You may decide not to celebrate at all, you may decide to do things differently or a familiar routine might bring comfort.

It may be especially important for you to remember your loved one over Christmas.

Sharing memories, talking to them orvisiting their grave or a place that is special to you both, can help to keep their memory alive. Grieving is the price we pay for loving someone and while the pain of your loss can feel more profound, it is ok to enjoy Christmas. Making new memories or creating new traditions can bring conflicting emotions, it’s ok to feel sadness but it is also ok to find enjoyment. The memories of your loved one and the experiences you shared together are yours to cherish. You carry them with you and can call them to mind whenever you need to. But, over time, Christmas can include new experiences and take on a different meaning.

Above all, be kind to yourself.

If you are struggling over Christmas, you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 ortext “SHOUT’ to 85258. If you are in crisisdial 999 or go to your local Emergency Department.

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