Information & Advice
Guide to Coping with Grief and Christmas
What are ways to cope with grief during the Christmas or Holiday season?
Information & Resources
Grief at Christmas
Some questions that may come to mind are: how do you celebrate your first Christmas after losing a loved one? Should I even be celebrating?
How do I cope with my emotions during this time? How do I make it through what is inevitably a worldwide moment of happiness?
We share some tips on making this season a little more manageable, and we hope it will give you some direction and assistance during this festive season.
The festive season can significantly emphasise the absence of the bereaved’s loved one. We’ve been there and experienced the pain, hence why we have put this Christmas and grief survival guidetogether for you.
Christmas is a beautiful time of the year – everyone seems to love the celebration. All around, you see symbols of love, family and above all, joy.
However, whilst it’s a time of celebration for many and a time to be merry with their dearest, for some, it can be the loneliest time of all. Feelings of sadness and depression can often surface, especially for those grieving the loss of a loved one or those celebrating their first Christmas without a child, parent, spouse, sibling, family member or friend.
In this guide you will find:
Grief and Celebration
In this section, we explore the location of death, the steps which follow, and what to do next.
When grieving, should you celebrate Christmas or the holidays?
Grieving can be paralysing around Christmas and the holidays. But the most important thing to note is whether you choose to celebrate Christmas or not – this is your choice.
This is a personal choice, and there is no right or wrong answer. Grief comes with some very complex and overwhelming emotions, and as joyful as the season is, Christmas too can also be a hectic and overwhelming time – especially in the lead up to it.
What will determine whether you want to celebrate Christmas or the holidays may be where you are along your journey with grief and family traditions that you may have.
Ensure you do not feel pressured into what you think you should be doing – no matter who those may be around you. As hard as it seems, even if it’s your children – allow yourself to feel!
Likewise, the thought and very act of celebrating Christmas can also come with guilt – and cause one to question what there is to celebrate or be grateful for after a loss.
What might cause feelings of loss or grief to intensify during Christmas or the holiday season?
Watching individuals with their families can enhance feelings of loneliness and remind you of your grief and loss. Whether it is your first holiday season after the death of a loved one or the fact that you do not have any close relatives around you – these factors can make the loss harder to bear and cause you to feel alone.
Moreover, the loss of your loved one’s companionship, friendship or help with Christmas related tasks that they would have previously done can cause a strain.
For example, if your deceased husband would be the one to put up the Christmas decorations every year, or perhaps your mum would always be the one to cook the Christmas dinner year in and year out. The holiday season can greatly emphasise their absence and may cause you to grieve them even more.
How to cope with grief during the holiday or Christmas season
How do you deal with your emotions during the holidays?
As much as Christmas is a joyful season, the very nature of that should not make you feel like you need to put on a facade. It’s imperative you process your emotions!
For instance it’s normal to feel lonely – if perhaps your grandmother is deceased; it’s okay to feel sad going into a store and seeing toys knowing your child passed away. The first step is realising that these emotions are perfectly valid and normal.
Secondly, it’s important to recognise how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. Whether it’s a feeling of loneliness, sadness, discontentment, jealousy or even envy – acknowledge its existence.
Having a strong network and support system around you is beneficial in the process of handling your emotions. This can be anything from a network of friends to a spiritual community, grief support group, grief counsellor or mental health professional. It’s often very easy to want to shut people around you out during this time.
Whilst it may feel easier to suppress the emotions that you are currently experiencing, confiding in your support network can help to relieve some of the tension, stress or anxiety you may be facing during the holiday season.
Ultimately one of the best things to do is to allow yourself to grieve. Even during a worldwide holiday and celebration this is completely acceptable and healthy! Try not to put a strong expectation on yourself to be happy.
Tips for coping with grief during the holidays?
1. Re-evaluate traditions
There are those things you may have done the same for ages, and now your loved one is gone and thinking about them is difficult. You can re-evaluate some traditions and change them in memory of your loved one, that way, they are still part of it all.
2. Avoid social media – if you have to
You may find that you are faced with pictures of happy families, matching jumpers and well-curated homes, which can dampen your overall mood. If you find that looking at the influx of images on social media will impact how you feel, you may want to consider deactivating your accounts for that period. What you can’t see won’t hurt you!
3. Lean on others for help
Sometimes when you are grieving, asking for help can make you feel vulnerable, and at times you don’t want to lean on people. However, doing so is not a sign of weakness. While grieving, you often receive a lot of love from people who want to be there and may not know how or what to do. Remember that you can lean on others for help!
4. Do what feels right
It may be Netflix and chill, visiting your loved one’s grave or travelling alone! Do what feels right! Your feelings are valid, and the place your emotions are in are also real. Doing what feels right can make you feel like you have honoured your loved one.
5. Allow yourself to be sad and experience the joy
Sadness and feeling the absence of your loved one will occur; in fact, you may feel emotions that you haven’t felt in a while. This doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. There isn’t. It’s all part of the process and the journey. However, in it, you may find moments of joy and laughter. When they come, allow yourself to embrace them both.
6. Practise self-care
The most important thing is you! So practise self-care whether it’s physically, emotionally, socially or spiritually. You can take a walk, use your support system, pamper yourself, be mindful or journal as a way to self-care.
7. Dance it out
Take that favourite playlist of your loved one or yours and dance it out! Even those Christmas tunes! Dancing is a great way to release any tension you may be feeling. So even with tears, dance it out!
8. Skip it
It’s really not a must to be jolly and do the presents and all the other things that come with celebrating Christmas. If you are not really feeling it, it’s ok to skip it.
9. Don’t make comparisons
Comparison is the thief of joy! It’s easy to think that others have it better and wonder if something is wrong with you! But that’s far from the truth. Life is unexplainable and happens in seasons. All seasons for all people are different. So try as best as you can to not compare your life to others.
10. Limit the booze
Be mindful that alcohol is a depressant. Be aware of how much you may drink if you are already in a state that is predisposed to sadness. And misuse of alcohol can often make you feel worse and experience more sadness.
How do you honour the memory of a loved one during Christmas?
Christmas can be a bittersweet time for those that have experienced loss of grief. If you’re feeling down during the Christmas season, rather than focusing on the bitter nature of it – you can also make something sweet and meaningful out of it. You can use the holidays to honour the memory of your loved one. This can include:
- Keeping alive famous Christmas traditions that your loved one might have followed
- Cooking their favourite meals
- Engaging in an activity that reminds you of your loved one
- Listening to their favourite Christmas songs
- Watching their favourite Christmas movies with the family
- Making a Christmas memory wreath dedicated to your loved one
- Create or decorate a Christmas stocking with their name on it
Remember that Christmas can be an incredibly painful time when a loved one has passed away – and there often can be many triggering details around.
So if you are perhaps reading this, and are a friend or relative of someone experiencing grief – this is something to remember. If you are the one dealing with loss, remember to take each day as it comes (as cliché as this may sound) and never feel the need to suppress your emotions no matter how happy everyone may be around you.
Even during a joyful season, you are still entitled to feel sad and lonely.
Alternatively, if you find yourself happy during the Christmas period, that is also great, and you shouldn’t feel any form of guilt for doing so.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful. Do you have any useful tips to help other grievers that may be struggling during the Christmas holidays? We’d love to read them in the comments section.