I am sure you have experienced grief frequently already this year, feeling those crashing waves taking you under randomly and expectedly. However, at Christmas, we can find our grief amplified and inescapable.
Christmas can be particularly challenging when you're grieving the loss of a loved one. Everywhere you turn, there are memories and triggers that stir up emotions. A familiar song, a beloved film, or a cherished family tradition can remind you of the emptiness in your heart. It's as if your loved one is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.
I understand this all too well. In recent years, my family has grown far smaller, leaving more empty chairs at our Christmas dinner table than filled ones. It's tough, it's lonely, and at times, it's suffocating.
However, over the years I have also gathered some tools and technqiues which help me face Christmas with the reality of the losses I carry whilst still holding the joy for Christmas in my heart and I would love to share some of these with you in the hope that they can help you.
1. It's Okay to Feel Your Emotions: Allow yourself to feel whatever you're feeling. Feeling as though we should put on a brave face can often cause us to feel worse. Take a moment to sit quietly (lock yourself in your bathroom if you need to!) and let yourself feel what you feel. Acknowledge that this hurts, this sucks, that you feel sad or angry ... whatever comes up. When we run from our intense emotions they catch up with us eventually but when we allow them to be, they tend to pass quicker.
2. The Importance of Traditions: Sometimes, sticking to old traditions might be too painful, sometimes they are comforting. I have carried out some traditions created by my lost loved ones and when I do, I feel closer to them but some of them were so sacred between the two of us, that I have accepted that they cannot be recreated. It's also okay to create new ones that feel right for you now. You may want to light a candle, hang a special decoration or even place their photo near the dinner table. If it helps you, it is totally fine to do it.
3. Find Small Joys: Try to find small things that bring you comfort or happiness, even if it's something as simple as a warm cup of tea or a walk in the park. When we are grieving we can often feel guilty when we start to feel positive emotions and pull ourselves back down for fear of not respecting our loved one, but it is okay to find some joy.
4. Reach Out for Support: Lean on friends or family, or join a support group. If you don't feel like doing something then it is okay, people who care for you will understand and respect your boundaries. Be gentle with yourself and accept offers of help. Take pressure off yourself in trying to be what you think others expect from you.
5. Take Care of Yourself: Prioritise self-care. At Beam, we talk about prioritising our self care often but it is never more important than when we are mentally and or physically exhausted. Grief drains us, it affects every aspect of our wellbeing, so respect that your body is doing a lot right now and show small acts of self care every day. Whether it's resting, reading, or engaging in a hobby, do what nurtures your soul.
6. You Are Not Alone: Right now, it is likely you feel as though you are the only person feeling this pain and whilst nobody knows exactly how you feel, I can assure you that there are literally millions of people in the UK right now feeling grief too. It is sometimes comforting to remind ourselves that no matter what it looks like, the reality is there are a lot of broken hearts out there and we are not alone.
7. Seek Professional Help if Needed: If you're struggling to cope, consider seeking help from a professional. You can of course schedule an appointment with me here (free 30 min chat) but if you need urgent help please contact The Samaritans Cruse or your GP.
All of these resources have helped me over the years and undoubtedly I will be leaning on them again to help me this year.
Remember, Christmas is just one day. While the anticipation and build-up can make it feel overwhelming, even if you spend December 25th in tears, it will pass. No emotion lasts forever.