NE Life Coach Discusses Grief at Christmas
Christmas can be tough. Grief takes on a whole new meaning and it doesn’t matter how long ago your loved one died. The people I really want to spend this season with are no longer here. I live alone and don’t have any family. I don’t say that to elicit any pity, I’m fine with it. It is simply a statement of fact.
Wherever I look, be it online, in the shops, on TV, on social media I am bombarded with what is seen as an ideal Christmas. Happy families; smiling children; lots of people celebrating together and sharing happy times.
I miss the people I’ve lost. It is an ache. Sometimes I think I would give the world for one more happy, joyful Christmas full of laughter and mischief and silliness and quiet, peaceful comfort in their company.
I know I’m not alone. There are many who will suffer the same sort of feelings of loss and find grief much more difficult to deal with at this time of year. There are some who will be going through their 1st Christmas without a loved one, some who will suffer the devastation of losing a loved one on Christmas day or throughout the holiday period. Some deaths will be sudden, some will be after a long illness, some older, some younger. It matters not. It’s all grief; it’s all pain; it’s all loss.
The First Christmas
Strangely the first Christmas on my own was the easiest. I didn’t just cope, I enjoyed it and raised a glass and a smile and enjoyed happy memories of laughter and fun. Perhaps it’s because it was the first one. I was somehow geared up for it, planning for it. So, in my search for a new strategy I thought I would share some thoughts and ideas.
Grief doesn’t have any rules or timescales and there isn’t any right or wrong way to deal with it. How a person copes with loss may not be the same as another. I think the key is showing compassion and patience, particularly to ourselves. I do think it’s important to acknowledge how we feel at this time of year; don’t pretend it isn’t there. You have every right to feel what you are feeling.
We often plan the meals, the visits, when we give gifts and what we are going to watch on the TV. What we don’t always remember is to plan some self-care time. Some time to just be. To simply acknowledge how you feel and accept it can be empowering. I try to begin each of the 12 days of Christmas with this simple acknowledgement and take a few minutes to just acknowledge and accept what I’m feeling.
I often forget how much energy grief consumes, well guzzles really. Perhaps you could plan things in a way that gives you a little pit stop along the way. Remember, you can also say no to things if you need to. You are allowed to prioritise your emotional and mental well-being over the Christmas period.
Traditions old and new
Honour the person who has died: you aren’t going to forget them and all that you shared. You may have particular traditions or memories that you want to keep alive, if that is what you want, then do it. When you are ready, creating new traditions for Christmas can be a positive and healthy way to manage your grief too, if you choose. They can help us stay in the moment and re-experience this time of year in a new and different way with new and different pleasure.
It’s exhausting to keep grief bottled up. I understand that we can want to do this and put on the cheerful mask. Be honest with your friends and family about what you need. I have found that, as hard as it may be to do this, good friends will accept it; in turn you begin to accept your own feelings better.
When I’m present in the moment, I stop fighting the grief. When I stop fighting, then whatever it is that I’m fighting seems to lose its power. When that struggle isn’t there, I can find peace in that moment and carry it forward with me.
Do something for someone else.
I’m selling some Hallmark Musical Snowmen, Jingle Pals. I collected them each year since 2005 but I don’t put decorations out and they were just sitting in a box so I popped them on ebay. A lovely lady bought a couple and she sent me a lovely message. She and her dad used to collect these when they were in the US at Thanksgiving but had missed out on these particular 2. She had decided to complete her collection and play them all in memory of her dad. She explained that she was telling me this so that I would know that they would be treasured. This really touched me and brought me such unexpected joy. By choosing to sell them now, they found their way to the place they needed to be in order to bring happiness to someone else. This lady did something amazing for me; she shared a little piece of her world with me just to be kind.
So when I suggest doing something for someone else, don’t underestimate the impact of the little things.
This can be an emotional time of year and you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to. I have wonderful friends who always generously offer opening their home and family to me on Christmas day. Their kindness is greatly appreciated although I know that this isn’t the right alternative for me. This year, I know that I will try something different again. I recognise all that I’ve gained; even this year in discovering Elf on a shelf! Now there is something to enjoy! The world is full of wonderful, creative and possibly quite mad people who are creating enormous amounts of work for themselves to just to create some extra magic for their children and, I daresay, themselves. Well, children young and old are enjoying this; the facebook pictures have made me laugh out loud and I thank all elf hosts for all their hard work!
Whatever you choose to do and however you choose to spend Christmas, I hope that you have a happy and blessed Christmas in whatever way is right for you.
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