Christmas or any other holiday period can be a hard time for people experiencing bereavement. Whether it is your first holiday without your loved one, or if you have had many, it can be a tough time of year. We are regularly told, through TV, songs and social media that Christmas is a time to be with family, which can make you miss your loved one more. You may find that your emotions feel less controlled – people have described feeling ‘irrationally’ angry at things; bursting into tears for no reason and feeling particularly anxious at this time of year – perhaps anxious about how to get through the ‘festivities’. The pressure to be enjoying yourself can exacerbate these feelings. These feelings are all normal and you are not alone this Christmas – many families are facing similar concerns.
Some tips for ‘getting through’ Christmas when you are grieving someone:
Plan what you want to do ahead of time: have a think about who you want to be with (if anyone), what you want to be involved with, and what you don’t. Communicate this ahead of time to those around you. Also, think about what you want to do and don’t be scared to change up traditions if it is too painful to do the same thing, for example, you might want to go out somewhere rather than stay at home.
Do things differently: If you usually do all the cooking but don’t feel up to it this year, ask someone else to do it or go out for a meal. Relieve yourself of responsibilities that feel unmanageable.
Write down your anxieties and make plans on how to cope with them: sometimes when we write down the things we are worried about it can lessen our anxiety. It can also help us to problem solve and plan how we are going to deal with them, so nothing comes as a surprise. For example, if you are worried you will get upset in front of others, a solution for this may be to let those you will be with know that this is a concern and that you plan to remove yourself from the room if this happens. Maybe also discuss with them what they can do if this happens – if you want to be left alone, or if you want someone to leave the room with you.
It is okay to ‘opt out’ of the festivities: if you are not feeling up to it, it is okay to remove yourself, either for the whole planned event, or for parts of it. Do what feels right for you.
Allow yourself time to grieve: it is okay to feel sad at Christmas, or any other time of year. Pretending you are not can be exhausting.
‘Involve’ your loved one who has died: have a think about if and how you want to ‘involve’ your loved one who has died. It might be nice to dedicate some time to sharing memories of them or to write a letter to them. If you feel you want to involve them in the day, then do.
Be kind to yourself: grief is difficult and tiring. Try to look after yourself emotionally, physically and practically. If you are struggling with any of it, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Don’t feel guilty for enjoying yourself: moments of enjoyment or happiness don’t diminish your grief. Enjoy these moments of respite from your grief and try not to feel guilty for them.
When we have lost someone we love, Christmas will never be the same.
At this time of year, when families can feel pressure and isolation at a time when smiles and joy are expected, we are coming together to shine our light.
Each light on our online tree represents the love we have for our families, wherever they are.
With Scottish Families no-one needs to feel alone. Every donation to our tree will help make sure we are here when they need us, the leading charity in Scotland providing expert support for families.