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14 Tips for Coping with Christmas After Loss

Grief’s ebb and flows can be overwhelming,waves of memories come crashing down over us, especially at Christmas. Christmas is a time of being with your family and loved ones, which makes it all the more difficult when that loved one is not there.

How can anyone cope with Christmas when a loved one has died? We miss them more than usual because the focus of everyone is to be with loved ones. You may need extra support during the festive season because it feels no-one has remembered that your loved one has died.

It’s not grief that you want to avoid it’s the pain of feeling the loss. Rather than avoiding your grief, feel it. Don’t feel that you have to be a certain way for Christmas to be “normal”. You need to navigate through your grief to get out the other side and feel the joy of life again.

Here are some strategies to help you get through Christmas.

If you celebrated Christmas in a certain way with your loved one, create new traditions that include them in a different way.

  1. Tell your story about your loved one. For me its was wonderful to hear my daughter’s name spoken. My friend used to get my girls names mixed up (we had twins and she forgot which one had died) and she’d ask, “How’s Jessica going?”. I’d answer, “I love hearing Jessica’s name and Cassandra is doing well”. She would apologise profusely and be very embarrassed but I loved that she would remember our daughter’s name and that she was in this world and is loved.
  2. Light a candle to remember them.
  3. Have a plan A and plan B in celebrating Christmas. When you were asked to the Christmas party you were having a good day and said yes but if it doesn’t feel right on the day having a plan B (which might be going to the movies instead) could help.
  4. It’s also okay to cancel Christmas this year, have a year off and begin again next year.
  5. Some people need the routine of Christmas to be able to get through it. Planning holidays, dinners and parties help give structure to this difficult time.
  6. Now is a great time to evaluate what you like about Christmas and the parts that you don’t.
  7. Remember there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas, it’s up to you. You have permission to change your mind (as many times as you need). Try things out for size, if it doesn’t feel right, question if you really want to do it or, think outside the box and change how you do it.
  8. Feel your feelings
  9. Be gentle on yourself. Get the rest and nourishment you need. Don’t try to do everything and act as if nothing has happened. Only take on what you can cope with. If you want to be alone, honour that. If you need people around you, ask them.
  10. Do exactly what you want to do, your friends and family may think they know what’s best for you but you are the only person that can know that. Don’t feel that you’re a burden. People get immense satisfaction out of helping others in times of need. Usually friends and family want to help but don’t know how. Often they think they are hurting you by talking about your grief, feel uncomfortable and don’t want to remind you of your pain. Again, this is up to you to guide them, sharing your feelings is the best way to get through them.
  11. Allow time for your feelings. This is a season of such mixed emotions, you feel happy to see a friend that you haven’t seen for a long time and at the same time you feel sad because your loved one isn’t there to share the moment with you.
  12. Keeping your feelings bottled up doesn’t help. If you want to cry, cry. Don’t stop yourself for the sake of others.
  13. Remember the children in your life, they are often forgotten. They are the best people to talk to because they say it how it is.
  14. Embrace what you have and what you want this Christmas to be. Don’t compare your Christmas celebrations with others. Keep in mind that this is a stressful time of year for everyone, create your own traditions with your family and friends.

Remember Christmas is one of the toughest celebrations you will have to endure and navigate through after loss.The way you handle Christmas is as individual as you are, make it your own, do what you want. This is part of your journey through your grief and is to be felt fully. Give your loss a voice, Christmas is a sad time but sometimes a little joy might seep through the cracks and you may even catch yourself in a brief moment of laughter.

Whatever you do enjoy Christmas and remember you are allowed to have your feelings. This is the best gift you can give yourself.

If you’re struggling with grief or loss, contact me to discuss your needs and find out how I can help.

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