Coping with Grief at Christmas

Coping with Grief at Christmas

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Christmas can be an especially tough time for anyone facing change, loss and grief.  Christmas is a time when there can be reminders of how things have changed and of the people, places or events that are missed.  The rest of the world seems overjoyed with the festive mood and yet you just want to get in bed and pull the covers over your head.  You’re grieving.  Perhaps your loss was quite recent or maybe it occurred years ago.  All you know is that you dread this time of year and cannot wait for it to be over.

Whilst the Christmas season is definitely a challenge for grievers, here are 6 tips to help you cope:

Talk about your Loved One – Don’t be afraid to mention your loved one when you’re at a party or with friends and family.  Often people are reluctant to mention the deceased because they are afraid to ‘upset’ you.  They don’t realise that your loved one is always on your mind and that it’s healthy to reminisce.  Be the one to share memories and to encourage conversation.  Always remembering to ‘Go Easy on Yourself’ – see below.

Express your Feelings – Holding in pent up emotion is not healthy.  If you want to cry, let yourself cry.  If you need to express anger, write in a journal.  Try some creative art to help express the many feelings you’re experiencing.  Letting yourself feel the pain and then finding expression for that pain is an important aspect to healing.

Light a Candle – Light a memorial candle at the Christmas dinner table to honour the light of your loved one.  Remember that although their physical form has gone, they are very much still a part of your life.  Hold that love close to your heart and remember that your life has been enriched by their love.

Shop and Share – A frequent sadness for grievers is not being able to shop for their loved one.  Try going shopping for things that you might have purchased for your dear one and then donating those items to a homeless shelter, a hospital, or a charity.

Go Easy on Yourself  – Be extremely gentle and kind to yourself.  If you don’t feel like going to a party, don’t go.  If you don’t want to send cards, then don’t send them.  Do the absolute minimum necessary for you to celebrate the holidays.  Grieving is exhausting and you simply won’t have extra energy to expend.  When possible, ask friends and neighbours to help you with tasks that feel overwhelming.  Try to do your shopping online.  Set your bar low and give yourself permission to take it easy.

Simple Pleasures – Even if your heart is broken, you can look for simple pleasures to savour.  See if you can find one tiny thing each day for which you can be grateful.  Notice your health, your loved ones who are still living, even small sensory pleasures like tastes, smells, and sounds.  Try shining the focus of your attention on small things in your life that bring you some happiness.

It’s normal to have many mixed emotions during Christmas, particularly when going through grief, stress or change. This is a time to make sure you care for yourself – eat well, drink water, get some exercise, get enough sleep and rest.