Coping with Bereavement over Christmas

November 26, 2018 3:48 pm Published by

With the holiday season approaching, the Foundation recognise we all cope with grief in different ways.  While Christmas is usually a time for celebration and family, it can be an intensely emotional time for those grieving the absence of a loved family member or friend, whether it’s a recent loss or one from long ago.

Facing Christmas after a significant bereavement can be a difficult time, especially if it’s the first year.  Choosing whether to celebrate the festive season or not is a very personal choice. New Year also presents another challenge with the realisation that the deceased person has been left behind.

Songs and situations will often trigger a mix of emotions particularly relevant at Christmas. Everyone reacts differently and chooses to remember and mourn in different ways, there is no ‘right’ way.  Some find they do not wish to celebrate at all, as they struggle to come to terms with feelings of hopelessness, loss of purpose and hope for the future. While others continue with routine as a coping mechanism, celebrating as a tribute to their loved one.

Remember it’s ok to share or not share with friends and family how you are feeling and ask for support, but also there are times when this is very difficult.  Plan time during the day that is just for you, whether it is to dedicate the time in memory of your loved one, look through photos, celebrate the times you shared or light a candle as a symbolic gesture.  As normal routines are disrupted over the festive season it can be easy to forget to look after yourself.  Keeping regular patterns of sleeping and eating can help to make a difference.

As time passes special occasions like Christmas can help us to begin to focus on happier memories.  Counselling can help you, if you’re struggling, be it in the immediate aftermath of a death, or many years later, your counsellor is there to help you work through and manage the feelings and reactions connected to grief.

“In modern terms counselling is like a satnav that counsellor and client can try and programme together.  Destination unknown but hope along the way.  Light at the end of the tunnel.”  Lynne McAllister, Foundation Bereavement Counsellor

The Foundation are here to listen and help you to learn how to manage the many feelings that may arise whilst you are grieving. The Counselling Foundation provides specialist bereavement support for anyone over the age of 18. Counselling provides a safe and completely confidential space for you to talk and be honest. To be sad, angry, scared or to just not know.

How bereavement counselling has helped those who have experienced loss:

“If not for the bereavement counselling, I would have been completely overwhelmed. It cannot take away all my problems but it just allows me to look at them objectively and cope better.”

“At the start, I would cry all the way home in the car, now I can smile and think about good times. I was struggling to see how I could carry on. Now I can at least focus.”

Bereavement is a time of mixed emotions, sometimes you may feel guilty for experiencing moments of happiness whilst grieving.   We share tips on how to get through the holiday period into the New Year.

Remember a loved one

  • Christmas can be a time to focus on positive memories and think about all of the good times shared.
  • Remember the person and say their name out loud when sharing a memory.
  • As time passes, special occasions like Christmas can help us to begin to focus on happier memories of good times shared in the past.

Choosing whether to celebrate or not?

  • Some experiencing bereavement may find that they do not wish to celebrate Christmas at all.   Some will continue with routine and celebrating as a tribute to their loved one.
  • It may feel important to make a special effort to remember the person who has died. This may involve visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These can be things that we do alone, or with friends or family.
  • Sharing treasured photos with families and friends may help.

Different ways of mourning

  • We know that people remember and mourn in different ways. Conflict within a family can sometimes arise when we have expectations of how others should grieve, so try to be sensitive to others’ needs, and to talk openly about what will be best for you.
  • Create new traditions.

Routine and self-care

  • Christmas will mean that normal routine is disrupted, and this can make it easier to forget to look after yourself.
  • Trying to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating are small things that can make a difference. We can all drink more on festive occasions, but it’s important to remember that using alcohol to escape the pain of loss provides only very temporary relief. Seeing friends or family, or volunteering for the day, can all help.

The Foundation offer subsidised specialist bereavement support in St Albans and surrounding villages. A space to open up and share how you are feeling regardless of when your loss occurred.

Please call: 01727 868585


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