Merry Christmas!!! Happy New Year and ….. Well, what if it’s not??
Christmas is sometimes not what it’s cracked up to be! Between the madness of last minute shopping, cooking up a storm and, god forbid, the dreaded family dynamics with nobody wanting to sit next to poor old Aunt Mary, some of us struggle to find a shred of Christmas cheer.
Christmas can also be a time of mixed feelings for anyone who is missing someone they love. The absence of a loved one is often felt even more intensely when any family gatherings occur – let alone one that surrounds itself with the cheerfulness of the gifts and carols.
Whether it’s a parent or partner who has left the family or a loved one who has died, it is especially important at this time to take care of yourself and those around you who have also experienced the significant loss or change.
While some people keep busy to distract themselves, others prefer to withdraw to their memories – there is no right or wrong way to act or feel. No matter how long the loss has been, the ability to use your “inner voice” to speak with kindness to yourself will go a long way to helping you through the day.
Having experienced the loss of my brother at 19, learning to live with that loss has been enlightening. Living with it does not mean – “getting over it” – it simply means accepting that there are times that are just not fun, that its ok to not want to be merry, that its sometimes ok to not go. I also learned that it is not ok to block everyone out, to hide away without being honest about my feelings and that sometimes – it can be fun – even if it is shitty.
Good Grief Ltd. (Good Grief Ltd. 2009) have some amazing tips for the silly season that I have found helpful for people to get through the day. Whether it is you who has experienced the loss or you are at a loss as to how to help someone you love, have a read and see if they fit.
It’s hard to predict how you’ll be feeling, so put some safeguards into place.
- Don’t make any big decisions over Christmas. You will probably be feeling enough stress and distraction, and there is no need to add to it. If possible, wait until the New Year.
- Make plans to be around people who you trust and who understand that you might not be feeling very “jolly”. Let them know that you may actually prefer to be alone sometimes, and they should not be offended if this is the case.
- Give yourself some time to think about the person you are missing. Listen to music, look at pictures, cry if you feel you want or need to. This may mean you are less likely to be overwhelmed or caught off guard by Christmas ‘triggers’.
- If a family has been split through divorce or separation, Christmas day may become a logistic struggle for children who now have two places to be. Make this easier for them by including them in plans ahead of time and making the transition as smooth as possible, and do your best to avoid competition over time spent with children or size and expense of gifts.
Here are some things that might help you manage your grief feelings over Christmas.
- Give yourself permission to do less. People will understand if you do not get the Christmas letter out, if you don’t bake cookies for everyone or if you miss a few parties. The most important thing is taking care of yourself and those close to you.
- Accept help. If you feel as though you are not coping well, reach out to people you trust and say yes to offers of support or company.
- Let yourself have fun. If you are feeling happy, go with it – it does not mean that you are forgetting or forsaking the person who is not there.
With Christmas comes New Year, a milestone which prompts reflection upon the past and plans for the future. Memories may bring both pain and happiness, while thoughts of the future may bring reminders of lost dreams as well as hope. Be gentle with yourself at this time, too.
Best Wishes from me to you