Christmas can 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 whenever 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 it’s ok to not want to be merry, that it’s 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.
To help minimize the emotional strain on yourself:
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.
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.
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 logistical 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.
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 doesn’t mean that you are forgetting or forsaking the person who is not there.
Sections of this article have been sourced through Good Grief Ltd. 2009