Coping with grief throughout the holiday season

Whether it’s your first Christmas without someone, or they died many years ago, you might find that your grief is more intense throughout the holiday season. 

For useful links, or to speak to a qualified bereavement counsellor visit: CuddleCot.com/grieving

“Many people tend to come together with family and friends throughout December and early January, whether that’s to celebrate Christmas or another holiday special to them. 

Despite the festivities, we know this can be a particularly hard time of the year when you’re missing someone. Maybe you’re bursting into tears when you least expect it, perhaps you feel angry at the people around you, or maybe you’re feeling anxious, worrying about how you’ll feel or how you’ll get through.” – Sueryder.org

Ashlie's Embrace
Photo credit: Ashllie’s Embrace

Plan ahead

“If you have been bereaved and are feeling worried about the Christmas period, it can be helpful to think about what your plans are for the weeks ahead and who you’d like to spend time with.

You shouldn’t feel pressured to have Christmas as usual if it doesn’t feel right, although celebrating as you normally would might be a comfort to you.

This will be different for each person after a bereavement, so plan for a Christmas you feel comfortable with and give yourself permission to do what you want to do.

If you are finding things difficult, you have the right to step away from the usual traditions and rituals until you feel ready to pick them up again. 

Remember that all emotions, whether they are ones of sadness, joy or any other, take up energy. You might not know how you’ll be feeling from one day to the next, so be kind to yourself and try not to ‘over-do’ things. Take a break and, if you’ve got a hectic couple of days ahead of you, schedule in some quiet time – whether that’s going for a walk if you need to, setting aside a few minutes to yourself with a cup of tea, or spending some time writing in a journal.

Don’t feel guilty about the things you think you ‘should’ be doing, and know that it’s okay to not be okay. Christmas can be a difficult time for anyone grieving and it can be tricky to escape with festive songs playing in every shop, cards coming in the post and re-runs of old favourites on TV.

Tears are an important and, for some, necessary part of grief. As much as you may fear that you won’t stop crying once you start – you will, and you may even feel a little better for doing so.”

Consider old and new traditions 

For many people, Christmas comes hand in hand with a number of traditions that can be linked to memories of the person you are grieving. This can leave you feeling upset, especially when you aren’t able to do these traditions in the same way.

To help you get through this difficult time, consider the traditions and what they mean for you and those around you.

Maybe you want to keep to them, but don’t be afraid to change old ones or create new ones. Starting a new tradition may also help the children in your family, particularly if they’re struggling too. It can be difficult for them to know how to act when the people they love are grieving, but finding new ways to remember the person you’re missing during this time can bring you together as a family. Examples of this include: 

  • Buying or making your own Christmas ornament or bauble to remember those who have died. If a photograph feels too much, then perhaps use a ribbon of their favourite colour or a sentimental object.
  • Bringing out the person’s stocking, or make one for them, so that you, your friends and family can fill it with cards, messages or letters. You can decide as a family whether you then would like to share these out-loud or keep them private.     
  • Having a small Christmas tree or memory wreath set up somewhere within your home in honour of the person who has gone. You could decorate this tree or wreath with their favourite colours, photographs, any meaningful objects or messages.
  • Making a paper chain with a message or memory of the person you’re grieving for written on to each ‘link’.
  • Buying a big candle in honour of them and lighting it for periods of reflection and remembrance.
  • Making an object or cash donation to a charity you know the person you are grieving would have supported in their honour. 
  • Setting a place at the dinner table for the person who is not there or making a toast to them at the Christmas meal.
  • Decorating their headstone or plaque on Christmas Day.  
  • Representing the person who has died through an object or symbol in your annual family Christmas photograph, if that’s something you do.

To read more visit: sueryder.org for their helpful guide on coping with grief over the holiday period.

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