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Cobble Blog

Grief & Christmas

The Christmas holiday season brings joyful times with family and friends, but when managing grief, it can be a particularly lonely and challenging time for many.

Everyone reacts differently to grief and we each find our own way to process our loss. When grieving, we may face a range of emotions, including anger, anxiety, stress, blame, sadness and guilt. During the Christmas period, these feelings can intensify.

As we head into the holiday season, it is important to acknowledge any feelings of grief that you may be carrying. It’s also important to acknowledge those we are missing and accept any feelings that arise. Cry when you need to and laugh when you can. There should be no expectation put upon you that you must be sad or that you must enjoy Christmas. Act according to how you feel - you may feel many different feelings on the one day. Reach out to family or friends and take advantage of their listening ear. Don’t be afraid to share how you’re feeling with someone who is offering to listen.

Christmas Tree Lights and Ornament

Losing someone near to us brings about change in many ways and Christmas is no different. Tears are likely to fill your eyes when you realise that special someone is not there to carve the turkey, or your champion joke teller is not there to make you laugh. Perhaps it’s your dear Great-Aunt that is missing to lead you all in the hokey pokey after a few Christmas cheers. These moments can bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes, but they are precious moments which you can hold and treasure within your heart for years to come.

If there is a family tradition that you feel is manageable, continue it. Perhaps you could add a new tradition in memory of your loved one - you could place a decoration on the tree to acknowledge their life. It might be something that reminds you of them or maybe a personally-decorated Christmas bauble with their name. Reminiscing over fun memories that include the deceased as you gather with others is perfectly okay. If storytelling & sharing yarns over Christmas lunch is traditional, then allow it to continue. You may not feel you want to say too much, but listening can bring joy to your heart. You may even feel comfortable with a change in tradition. A change can be timely and aid you in processing your grief.

Image by Chad Madden

Triggers often take you by surprise on a day when you feel you’ve been coping well. Then, suddenly, the smell of a Christmas food, opening of a present or hearing a Christmas carol can bring you to tears as you are reminded of your loved one. Just allow this to happen and have a plan in place to support you.

Be honest with your family and friends and let them know how you are feeling and how you would like to spend Christmas. In most cases they will appreciate your honesty and accommodate your needs. We often feel that we need to please everyone, attend every party and keep smiling throughout the festivities. Not being true to yourself only complicates your grief and exhausts your wellbeing.

Maybe catching up with a small group of friends is enough for you right now, rather than attending a huge celebration. Ask someone to accompany you to gatherings if you are feeling anxious about going alone.

Remember to put self-care at the top of your list; treat yourself, buy that new gift you’ve been wanting, get a massage, indulge in a favourite food! This is not being selfish - it is a practical approach to keep yourself well and avoid becoming overwhelmed.

This is your grief - process it in the way that you feel works best for you.  Although their intentions are good, people can sometimes feel the need to want to rescue you and try to take the pain away.

Allow yourself to choose what does and doesn’t work for you this Christmas.

Published December 2021.

ShelleyCarolan_Headshot.jpg

Shelley Carolan

Lead Counsellor, Cobble Counselling

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