Christmas and the holiday season can be a hard time of year if you’re grieving the death of a loved one. It may be the first Christmas since you lost that person or you may be just dreading the thought of this time of year without that person to celebrate with.
Unfortunately, celebrations such as birthdays, Christmas, and wedding anniversaries can really make the loss of a loved one hit home. However, the techniques and strategies below can help you deal with the extra emotions the festive season might bring.
The NHS also publishes a list of charities to help if you are struggling with your mental health.
Don’t Feel Guilty
Loss is personal and how you grieve is entirely down to what works for you and your family. You should never feel guilty or be made to feel guilty about the way that your coping manifests itself. The grief is yours and yours alone. Don’t feel pressured into celebrating in a way that’s right for you.
The only exception is that bottling up any emotions really won’t help you in the long run. You cannot hide from them, but if you deal with them in the right way you will come to terms with the death in a healthy way.
Do Something Different
If you’re grieving, you could choose to do something different at Christmas. So whatever you would normally do, you may find that breaking those traditions helps you cope with it. For example, you might decide to spend a few days away over Christmas to give you a different focus. Or if you have Christmas at your house every year it could be a case of spending it with friends or family in a different household.
Do Something the Same
Perhaps doing it differently won’t work for you? Some people take huge amounts of comfort in keeping the routine of their previous Christmases when their loved one was still alive. Perhaps you’ll see family members on Christmas Eve, then go home and wrap the presents like you always did. Perhaps you’ll attend the service on Boxing Day as always.
Maintaining a sense of normality really works for some people.
Talk About It
It may be normal to feel that you don’t want to burden people with your sadness at Christmas time, but talking through your emotions is one of the best ways of coming to terms with death (or any other form of stress and hardship).
Share a memory or play a song. Remember that person and celebrate their life with your friends and family too. It can feel strange if you have positive emotions during the Christmas period, and you’re grieving, and you may even feel guilty or disrespectful by having them. But you shouldn’t. Your loved one’s memory isn’t any less important because you have a moment or two of happiness over the Christmas period. But it will do wonders for your healing process.
As well as talking through your emotions be sure to use all the support available to you. Use friends and family as a source of encouragement. Talk to them, socialize with them and use the time to work through your emotions while surrounded by those who care deeply for you.
When it comes to the Christmas preparations, take up any offers of help that come your way. Do the bits you want to do but accept help for the areas you feel might be too taxing emotionally. Remember you need to look after yourself too…
Look After Yourself Physically
It seems that exercise, eating well, and getting plenty of rest are always the answer. But they really can help when it comes to dealing with any kind of stress or grief.
“Physical activity releases brain chemicals such as endorphins, which help to relieve discomfort and boost our mood. Although grief is not the same as depression, ‘complicated grief’ – a form of bereavement that triggers strong emotional and physical reactions that can take years to work through – can lead to depression.” www.patient.info
Taking up something gentle like Tai Chi (as one example) can help release stress, give you something to focus on, and offers the chance to make new friends too.
Perhaps the hardest part of dealing with grief is the long road to recovery that’s ahead of those left behind. Things like pre-planned funerals and funeral finance can take away some of the stress before death occurs. But readjusting to a new life can take a long time. And despite common myths, there is no magic timeline of adjusting to the death of a loved one.
It will likely be the case that those days will never be the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move on with your life, while still staying emotionally connected to your loved one. This is your aim. And moving on in a healthy way doesn’t mean forgetting.