It is the time of year where there is an expectation that all the crappy things that happen to us in the year will be forgotten as we come together and celebrate Christmas and that the pain we carry will be left behind…..just for one day.
BUT……when someone we love has died, Christmas can be unbearably difficult. The whole world seems to be celebrating, everybody appears to be obsessed with preparations that confront us at every turn – in shops and streets, on TV and radio, in magazines and on the web and social media. Instead of feeling a connection to family there can be a feeling of alienation and isolation which can intensify our yearning for our loss and our grief.
As we contemplate Christmas, especially in the early years of our bereavement, we wonder how we will survive. It is normal for those heavily impacted to feel they just want to “cancel” Christmas? It may not feel the same as it was because our family unit is not the way it was, there has been change. If this is the first year, it may be painfully different from previous years. We may find the anticipation and stress of what we “should” be doing very hard to deal with. Do we decorate the tree, send cards, give presents, attend a place of workshop, join in the festive meal or go to a Christmas party.
If we have younger children do we continue with important traditions of trips to the shops, the decorations, concerts or Christmas photos? Many bereaved parents find the run up to Christmas – with all the accompanying anticipation – can be more difficult to cope with than the actual day itself.
Here are some ideas that might help and support you as you prepare for the holiday season:
- Don’t allow other people to dictate to you how you should get through this extremely difficult time of year.
- Don’t feel you have to plan. Sometimes we don’t know what we will feel like doing until the last minute.
- If you wold like your loved one acknowledged by others at Christmas, then tell them, whether it is to see their name in a Christmas card or to remember them with a toast during the Christmas (many may be scared of doing this unless you tell them) or a candle on the table.
- Spend time with people who understand and avoid those who don’t.
- On Christmas day make time for yourself to escape if things become too much. A walk outside can really help reduce tension.
- If you can’t cope with the idea of Christmas at all then perhaps going away and doing something completely different can be an option.
- It can be difficult to know how to include the person who has died in a card. Some choose not to send at all while others include their name or a symbol to represent. One idea is to write “Love from X and Y and always remembering ………….”
- Develop a Christmas ritual. Maybe you can attend a candle lighting service with others who are bereaved (Woronora holds one every year), spend time at a special memorial place on your own or with others or make/buy a special car or decoration.
When we experience the trauma of loss the Christmas period can have a shadow, a yearning for what should have been, an added poignancy. As difficult as this festive season can feel I want you to know that you can survive it. When we delve into what really matters, we can see that the importance of this Christmas is that you do what feels right for you and that you are able to carry the loving memory of the person you miss into this year and future Christmas times.
No matter the timeframe, if you are having difficulties with managing your grief and loss then consider booking an appointment at Aim For Hope Counselling and let’s chat about how we can help.