It’s the season to be jolly…but is it really for everyone? Individuals who are recently bereaved mention the festive season as the most difficult of them all. Cheerful music, parties, festive decorations are meant to create a celebratory atmosphere but for individuals who are mourning the loss of a loved one these times can accentuate the sadness felt.
Loss is painful. At times, it just takes a Christmas song, the smell of spiced wine or a family meal to be flooded by grief all over again. What can I do to be able to ‘make it’ through the weeks ahead?
Have a plan: Planning can give us a sense of control. Do not feel pressured and go to every event you are invited too. Choose wisely and have an escape plan. Drive to the event yourself or trust a friend to take you home at a moment’s notice if it you feel overwhelmed. You might enjoy the activity more if you know you can escape at any time.
Traditions, new and old: Most of us have traditions related to Christmas. Find ways to integrate the memory of those lost in these traditions. Buy a special candle and light it up in December in honour of your loved one. Look through photos of special times you’ve spent together. Give a donation to charity in their name. Be with those experiencing hardship during the coming weeks – giving of our time, can help us move beyond our pain and see the needs of others.
Lessen the heartache: Do not put up all the usual decorations if it helps. If you find shopping for presents in brightly lit, decorated shops difficult and stressful, shop for presents online. We cannot berate those around us for decorating and celebrating, however we can limit our exposure to it.
Ask for help: Experiencing a wide range of emotions is ok. Do not be afraid to show those you love that you are struggling during this time of year. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being human. It’s a sign of our need for connection to others. Christmas can be a time of profound connection, if we just reach out.
Morin, A. (2015) Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201512/how-deal-grief-during-the-holidays
Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.