How To Cope At Christmas When You’re Grieving

One STELLAR writer shares her advice.

Christmas can be a difficult time for many, particularly if you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Here’s our top advice on how you can mind yourself over the difficult festive period.

Don’t try to be okay just because it’s Christmas

Whether it’s because of advertising, childhood memories, or everyone getting together, there can be a pressure to feel or act happy simply because it’s Christmas.

But you’ll know by now that grief doesn’t care what day it is, and oftentimes, those big, special, usually happy ones are the hardest. There is no point pushing the sadness aside and pretending it’s not there. If you let yourself have a cry, you’re more likely to be able to enjoy some of the day.

Talk to those around you

If it’s your first Christmas without a parent, spouse, or any other family member, those around you are aware and feeling it too. If you’re afraid that getting upset will only upset others, think about whether you’d want those around you to pretend if they were okay if they weren’t.

Your kids, parent or other family members may find it helpful if you’re honest about how hard you’re finding the day, and how much you miss your loved one.

Practice your lines

This might sound a little cynical or false, but the reality is, a lot of well-meaning people will ask you how you’re doing and how you’re coping without your loved one. Sometimes with the pressure and hustle and bustle of Christmas, this can really throw you or upset you out of nowhere.

It can help to have a think about what you’d like to say if someone asks you. It can be as simple as “I miss him a lot, but I’m glad to have my family around me”, or “It’s really tough, to be honest, thank you for asking”.

Having that security blanket-line can help you get through any social visits or neighbourhood chats that you might be nervous about.

Feck tradition

“But we always open presents first thing.” “We always spend Christmas Eve in the pub.” “We always have turkey.” If there is anything you don’t want to do this year, even if it’s tradition or you’ve ALWAYS done it. that’s fine. If you don’t have the energy, it doesn’t logistically make sense, or you just simply don’t want to do something, that A-OK!

Tradition is nice and can help to make things still feel special or normal, but that doesn’t mean you have to do anything ‘just because’ you always did it before.

Take some time out

Christmas is exhausting, even if it’s a low-key Covid one where all you do is eat and open presents. The build-up, pressure and long days can absolutely wreck you in normal circumstances, never mind when you’re grieving.

Don’t be afraid to take some time out at any point over the Christmas and New Year period, just for you. Whether it’s a lie-down, a walk or just some chill-out time on your own, don’t be afraid to take a step back and sit it out for an hour or so, even if it’s just to cry, breath or check-in with yourself.

Include them

Your late loved one can’t be there in real life, but there are lots of ways you can include them at Christmas time. Whether it’s a dad-decoration or an angel on top of the tree that represents your mam, a donation to a charity they cared about in lieu of a present, or a toast to absent friends just before you tuck into your dinner, saying the person’s name early and often over the Christmas period can help to ensure there’s no elephant in the room creating unnecessary awkwardness.

It will also help remind anyone else you’re spending Christmas with that the person who died is very much a part of the day, and that they won’t be forgotten about. And remember that if they meant something to you, there is no chance of them ever being forgotten.

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