Christmas is a challenging time for those who have lost loved ones. The Christmas period centres around spending time with family and enjoying others’ company, which can trigger feelings of grief in those who have lost family members or friends. For many, grief is a feeling that may never truly go away. It can reduce in intensity, but grief remains and can be reawakened by certain events or times of the year. We’ve put together a few ways to help you cope with grief at Christmas.
Accept that not everyone experiences grief in the same way.
Grief is debilitating and unpredictable, especially at Christmas when families come together to enjoy the festivities. The absence of the individual who has passed away may feel starker than at other times of the year. If you or someone around you is grieving the loss of a loved one, try to remember that not everyone experiences grief in the same way. Some will keep their emotions locked up and grieve in private, and others will be more open emotionally. Try to respect the way that an individual grieves, as failing to do so can lead to conflict. Just because someone doesn’t look upset doesn’t mean that they are fine.
Look after yourself at Christmas.
The Christmas period can lead to a disrupted routine. While a change in routine occasionally can be positive, it can also lead to people forgetting to look after themselves properly. Try to wash and get dressed each day, even if it’s just getting changed into a clean set of festive pyjamas. If you can, try to maintain a regular sleeping and eating pattern. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink, as it is a depressant and may make you feel even worse if you consume too much of it over a sustained period.
Talk with family members about the loss.
If the loss is relatively recent, it may be useful to discuss how you are feeling with other members of your family. Understanding how all family members are feeling will help all involved cope with collective grief. If you can, try to talk about the happy times you had with the individual/s who have died, too. Before Christmas Day, the family may want to discuss how they are planning on celebrating Christmas. Will it be different this year as a result of the death of a loved one? Some families choose to continue old Christmas traditions to honour the memory of the deceased. Others may want to mark the memory of the individual who has died by doing something different such as a visiting their burial place.
If you’re struggling, talk to someone.
Coping with grief at Christmas is tough, but there is always someone there to help you. If you need someone to talk to that isn’t a family member or friend, there are numerous helplines available to use. Bereavement helplines such as Cruse are available via phone or online chat. If you need to talk to someone when the helplines are closed, Samaritans are available 24/7, every day of the year for those in distress.