Our regular blogger Emily shares her thoughts on grieving at Christmas.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first Christmas without your loved one, or if they died many years ago, you may find that your grief is more intense throughout the holiday season. Many people tend to come together with family and friends throughout December and early January, whether that’s to celebrate Christmas or another holiday special to them.
Despite the festivities, this can be a particularly hard time of the year when you’re missing someone who has passed away, no matter how many years have passed. When you’re grieving, it’s important to remember to do what’s right for you and try not to feel pressured into doing anything you’re not comfortable with.
The pressure to be happy
We all know that during the Christmas holidays there is often an unspoken pressure on everyone to come across as cheerful. Please know that you do not have to pretend that you’re okay just for the comfort of others. You are not letting anyone down by feeling low, and it’s highly likely that other people experiencing bereavement are feeling the same way as you are.
When my Grandad died at the beginning of December 2021, the last thing I felt like doing was celebrating Christmas. Working in a school, I actually dreaded the end of term because I no longer had work as a distraction for how I was feeling having lost my Grandad.
One thing which I, personally, find especially tough at Christmastime and in the run-up to the big day is Christmas cards. My Dad passed away in 2012 and every year since, I can’t look at the Christmas cards for Dads without getting tearful. The same happens with cards for Grandfathers now too. When I voice this to others, they struggle to understand why I find shopping for Christmas cards so stressful and upsetting.
I do find that it helps to be open and honest about how you’re feeling and if you are struggling. It’s true that lots of emotions are heightened during the festive period, no matter how much time has passed since the loss.
I think that it is so incredibly important not to suppress your emotions as this will, firstly, make you feel so much worse and, secondly, that emotion won’t just go away, it will continue to build up and could lead to something much more damaging. Trying to allow yourself to feel what you need to is necessary.
The Christmas period may disrupt your normal routine, and this can make it harder to look after yourself. This is something which I find extremely challenging as having a routine and doing things I enjoy has always helped me cope with grief. It is good to remember that keeping regular patterns of sleeping and eating where possible can make a difference, and saying no if you feel like you need a break.
Spending time with family and friends can be both helpful and unhelpful at Christmastime if you are grieving. On the one hand, it is good to have people to talk to and share your grief with, but, on the other hand, heightened emotions can lead to arguments and this can be overwhelming.
Overall, it is important to remember that you are not alone.
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