Christmas can be a tough time of year for so many people, for so many reasons. Although I personally love Christmas and over the last few years have really tried to embrace it more than ever before, I’m very aware that that’s not the case for everyone. Grief in particular can play a huge role in how you feel at Christmas.
This is the second Christmas without my Granddad and it still feels weird. I’ve lost all my Grandparents so Christmas is definitely a time where we feel that loss even more than before. I’m thrilled to host this incredible post from Kayleigh on my blog today, all about how to deal with grief at Christmas. I know that a lot of people will sadly be able to relate but I hope (and I’m sure it will) give you some helpful advice on how to deal with grief this Christmas:
A guest post from Kayleigh Zara:
Hi everyone, it’s Kayleigh from Kayleigh Zara here today. Jenny kindly agreed to let me write a guest post for her for the festive season. Today, I’m here to talk to about something really close to my heart, dealing with grief and loss this Christmas time.
Dealing with loss during the festive season can be very hard, Christmas is a time for celebration and joy but it really is a difficult holiday to celebrate when someone you love is missing from the celebrations. Due to the pandemic there will be 50,000 more families this year experiencing grief at Christmas, so today I’ll be sharing my experience with losing someone at Christmas and some realistic tips for coping with grief during the festive season.
Three years ago, the day after boxing day I was awoken to a call to say that my dad had passed away. I was 22, it’s not a call you ever want to have and definitely not one that you think you’ll get in your 20s. Christmas since has been a very different experience for me. One thing I’ve always really struggled with is Christmas is a time for joy, and your grief suddenly becomes very public as you spend a lot of time with family, your partner or friends for weeks of celebration.
Because my dad’s death fell in-between Christmas and New Year’s, I dreaded the next Christmas. Previously Christmas had been an occasion I loved, and found so joyful. The first Christmas was hell, I tried my best to partake in occasions, go to Christmas parties, but all it would take was seeing a family photo at a friend’s house, or a Christmas advert on the TV to set me off. Being a blogger, I was unable to even produce Christmas content that year, and I made the decision to spend Christmas alone at my university house rather than returning home to be with my family.
It was potentially one of the worst decisions I made to isolate myself, but I learnt from it. I took the holiday period to do the small things that my dad really loved, such as taking long morning walks, watching re-runs of The Tudors and drinking brandy in all my coffees. I ignored it was Christmas and didn’t even put a Christmas tree up and I didn’t bother to decorate. Any gifts I received weren’t opened until mid-January.
This first Christmas without my dad taught me that really everyone deals with grief differently and there isn’t a right way to deal with grief throughout the festive period. For those who are dealing with grief or experiencing your first Christmas without a loved one here are some tips to help you through it:
Don’t allow other people to dictate what you should do/ how you should be feeling
When I started telling people my dad had died, I got a ton of unsolicited advice on how I should be feeling and what I should be doing. Christmas time is hard enough when you’re grieving, don’t feel like you need to feel a certain way or be doing something because someone tells you, you should.
Focusing on how you feel, and doing what’s right for you day to day is really important for the healing process.
Talk to your friends and family, and let them know how you feeling
Grieving isn’t a straight path, there may be days over the festive season where you feel better than others. By telling your friends and family what’s up, they’ll be able to accommodate how you feel, and support you if/when you need it. No one is a mind reader, and without vocalizing how you feel your friends and family really can’t help you.
Don’t feel bad about being upset
You might be unlucky enough to know people that will guilt you for experiencing grief during Christmas. These are the worst type of people, and feeling sad at time when you would have previously been with a loved one is very normal. You aren’t ruining the festive celebrations by feeling upset.
If things do start to feel too much for you, remember that you can contact The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. There is nothing to be ashamed about if you need someone to talk to.
Related read: My Experience With the Samaritans
Don’t feel guilty about feeling happy
This is one I experienced last Christmas. I found myself genuinely enjoying the festivities and then I felt exceptionally guilty for it. You are allowed to feel moments of respite.
Take down time to reflect on the good times you had
When dealing with grief it can be really painful to take the time to remember the good times you experienced with the person you lost. It can feel really painful to think of the positive memories you have as you won’t be experiencing them the same way again. But, taking this time to remember them can be really enlightening.
I personally used this time to think about some of my favourite childhood memories with my dad, and this year me and my significant other will be doing a few of the activities I had previously done with my dad, such as making mulled wine together and watching Christmas movies on Christmas eve.
Take it day by day
When it comes to Christmas celebrations you might find that your calendar fills up quickly with festive plans. Like I mentioned above, grief really isn’t a straight path one day you might feel like watching Christmas movies with your friends and the next you might need time to yourself. The best way to cope with the pressure of Christmas is to take every day as it comes, and if you can’t attend an event or plan simply vocalize you are grieving and not up to it.
If you’re ready talk about your grief
Grief doesn’t have a finish line, it’s an ongoing feeling of love and loss. I personally find that the move you talk about someone, the easier it becomes. I try to talk about my dad with my family members yearly to remember him in the best ways possible.
You might not be ready to talk about it at first, and that is okay. It took me over 2 years before I was ready to openly have conversations about my dad.
I want to say a massive thank you to jenny for letting me chat about this subject, and for those experiencing grief this Christmas, I hope these tips might be helpful to you.