Christmas is a time of celebration and joy for many around the world. Yet for those who have recently lost a loved one, it can be a season that is tinged with pain and sadness. Here are some tips and advice on coping through this period, especially the first Christmas after someone has died.
Do something special for your loved one
One of the cornerstones of Christmas day is the notion of gifting presents and showing how much you care for those close to you. You may feel sad that you no longer have the opportunity to do this. However, the loss of their physical presence does not rob you of the ability to pay tribute to them. Many people find solace on Christmas day by taking the time to remember their loved ones through their actions. This could be visiting their graveside, a walk in a park that they liked, or taking a moment to raise a toast to their memory.
Continue your traditions
Every family has unique ways of celebrating Christmas. For some, this might be the way that they open presents – for instance, one at a time after breakfast, or all together as soon as they wake up. You might go for a walk after Christmas dinner, or you might watch the royal speech on TV. Everyone is different. Many people find that continuing these traditions gives them a sense of closeness to the person they have lost and ignites happy memories of Christmas gone by.
There is no right or wrong way to approach the festive period. While many people will want to keep themselves busy and be around as many people as possible, others may find that they would prefer to have a more subtle celebration this year. It is important not to isolate yourself completely, but there may be some celebrations that you decide to take a rain check on. This decision should be yours and yours alone, and you should do whatever you feel will make you most comfortable. There is nothing wrong with skipping the annual Christmas drinks and staying at home in front of the TV – if that’s what you feel like doing.
Managing your grief
The joy and happiness that comes with Christmas can be more complicated for those who are recently bereaved and your grief is unlikely to take a Christmas vacation. This is normal and natural, and you should expect to have moments where you feel upset, angry, or even guilty. You should embrace your feelings, but not let them consume you.
If you feel overwhelmed by your emotions then your first port of call should be to reach out to your loved ones, colleagues and friends for support. However, if you feel that your grief is becoming unmanageable then you should seek out support from professionals such as your GP or registered charities such as the Cruse National Helpline. You can contact them at 0808 808 1677, or use the CruseChat service on their website to speak to a trained grief counsellor.