Christmas is seen as a joyful time for celebrating but for those of us who have lost someone, whether recently or many years ago, it can be a difficult time of year. Memories of past events are suddenly brought to the forefront, and sometimes the thought of future celebrations without them can feel overwhelming. These feelings are extremely common so we have put together some tips to help you cope with them over the holidays.
If there are things that trigger your grief it’s a good idea to make plans ahead of time to try and avoid them if possible. Talk your plans through with friends and family members to find ways to celebrate without causing anyone pain or distress. Of course, there are often times when the grief will surprise you, and that is totally understandable, but being prepared will help you cope with these feelings if they arise.
Create new traditions
Long held traditions can be difficult to keep up once you’ve lost someone, so why not give them a miss in favour of some new ones? If Christmas or New Year at home feels too painful you could choose to go away, or visit other family and friends. You can always come back to your old customs when you are ready, or continue creating new traditions each year. There’s no shame in admitting that the things you used to do are too difficult.
Make a memorial ornament
Create some beautiful ornaments in memory of any friends or family members you have lost. This could be anything from a small ornament to a table decoration, or even a Christmas candle that you light every year. This is also a fantastic way to help children cope with grief over the festive season. For more festive memorial ideas, visit our Remembering a loved one at Christmas page.
Don’t be afraid to talk
People often think that we shouldn’t mention those we have lost for fear of upsetting someone, but talking about them can actually be a big help. You will have many memories you hold dear and others may also enjoy talking about them with you. Don’t be afraid to talk about your dearly departed with your friends and family this Christmas.
Visit those you have lost
While some might find it hard to visit the grave of a loved one at Christmas, you will find that graveyards and crematoriums are actually filled with people celebrating their loved ones at this time of year. You could take flowers or simply spend some time at a special spot to ease the feeling of loss. Remember you are not alone - there are many people feeling the same way as you. Getting outside for some fresh air can also do wonders when you’re feeling stuck.
Take time for yourself
Grief affects everyone differently so it’s important to understand how to take time for yourself. Whether that be surrounding yourself with family, keeping busy or just spending some time alone, make sure you do what’s best for you.
Don’t feel guilty
Guilt is one of the main stages of the grieving process, and whether the pain is fresh or in the past, it is very common to feel guilty at this time of year. It can catch you off guard when you start to enjoy yourself, but remind yourself that there’s no need to feel bad about having a good time without those you have lost.
Get support if you need it
There will be times when it all feels too much. It’s important to recognise when you need support - this could be from friends, or a bereavement support service. You can find more information about the support services available to you here.
Looking for something different and fulfilling to do this Christmas? Why not help others by volunteering at a homeless shelter or local care home. You may find that giving something back helps distract you from your grief as you put your energy into something truly positive. There are many charities looking for volunteers to help out over the festive period.
Just as we all grieve in different ways, we also all find different things useful in coping with bereavement. We’d love to know if you have any advice on things that you have found helped you cope over the holiday season. Send your advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.