How to cope with Christmas when you’re grieving

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Christmas. Some of you reading this will be facing your first Christmas alone and wondering how you’re going to cope. Others will be wondering whether they’re going to cope this time.

Many people will notice a person shaped hole in their heart many years after the loss.

Equally whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the fear of any approaching Celebration can be equally stressful. So, what can you do?

Firstly, it’s a good idea to have a plan. Putting your head down and hoping to wake up in mid-January sadly isn’t going to work. If you have children, then include them in making the plans. Be honest when talking to them – express how sad you are that Mum/Dad/Grandma/Uncle won’t be there and that it’s going to be very different. Ask them what they want to do to acknowledge how much they miss them and what they want to keep or change about your family traditions. If there is something that is very special to you that you want to do or not do explain this too. Your feelings are equally important as theirs.

It is essential that you are honest with them. We teach our children to always tell the truth so when we attempt to cover up our feelings and put a brave face on our body language gives us away and they get confused. Even small children can sense when they are being deceived. However, you need to be cautious. Being honest doesn’t mean that you should turn your children into your carer or surrogate spouse. So even though you can be honest, you need to gently discourage them from taking care of you. Yes, it’s a little subtle to do both, but you’ll be able to know how to do that.

It’s also a good idea to have a Plan B or escape route. If you suddenly find you don’t want to be somewhere then being unable to leave because you’ve had a drink or are otherwise trapped can make a bad feeling so much worse. If you’re spending time with extended family make sure that you explain that you might need to escape to a spare room every now and again without worrying about being interrogated about where you’ve been.

Avoid spending too much time alone, as grievers we tend to isolate because we quickly learn that most people aren’t “safe” to talk to. They try to fix us or make inane remarks that might be intellectually true but are emotionally useless.

Isolation impedes recovery. We need others around us to share our thoughts and feelings with and yes to share new experiences that can become new happy memories.