Grief in the lead up to Christmas | 6 tips to help
Are you starting to feel the heaviness? The pressure that everyone around you will be having that perfect Christmas when you know it will never be the same without your lost loved one?
This Christmas will be my first without my Mum. She passed away in March 2021, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor on Christmas eve 2020. During those three months, I had the very great privilege of helping to look after her, and we managed to enable her to stay at home until she died.
Facing Christmas without her seems impossible as she was the glue that held everything together, the person that created the things that made Christmas such a special time. Her little touches, her overindulgence with gifts, her generosity and the memories of dressing the Christmas tree, how she would beautifully lay the table, and her trifle that contained Angel delight! Yuk!
My gut instinct is to shut down and cancel Christmas. The very last thing I want is a large Christmas day without her, making comparisons, missing her beautiful little touches, and not receiving the lovely thoughtful beautifully wrapped gifts she had carefully collected throughout the year.
This is not the first time I have experienced close grief and I know there will be so many of us going through the same emotions. The pandemic alone has increased our experiences of losing loved ones. Every situation is unique, personal, and at times just plain unbearable. It’s a daily struggle and only this week we attended a very painful memorial service at a church near to where my mum is buried. The Church was filled with people who have lost loved ones, each with their own story, each feeling their own burden and probably feeling the heaviness of an impending Christmas without their loved one.
I decided to write this BLOG post because, whilst not necessarily related to my business, my grief, and my feelings are part of me and that has an enormous impact on my day to day. I also thought it might help other people starting to feel the pressure of ‘The perfect’ Christmas know that it’s ok to feel sad, even miserable, grumpy, and rather bar humbug. Many of us will have children of our own and for their sake, but also for our own sake, we have no choice but to find a way through.
So in true ‘Self-help’ style, I did a bit of googling, to see what others suggest for helping to ‘Get through’ this tough time and found some great suggestions. here is my slant on my top six:
Consider completely changing things up and celebrating in a unique way.
I’m actually thinking this may be an opportunity to create some new traditions or different ways to celebrate.
It might be worth having a think in advance about what you might do that is different, rather than planning for the traditional potentially painful celebrations. Sticking to the normal Christmas traditions might just be too much and could trigger too much sadness.
I’m trying to think about something different and unusual, that I’ve always fancied doing for a change. I thought I might buy a special candle, have it on the dinner table and light it in memory of my Mum. Embrace the sadness and bring a little JOY!
Find your special way to remember them
Every year at Christmas my Mum would visit her parents’ grave and leave flowers for them. She never put herself under pressure to make sure they had flowers all the time, but on their birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Christmas she would. This year on Mother’s Day, my Mum was too poorly to visit their grave, and so I took flowers instead. She is buried next to them and so this year I’ll be leaving flowers for all of them. Yes, it will be very sad, but it’s good to remember and include them.
Do something brave
Getting out of your comfort zone and feeling brave can be so empowering and cathartic. This is often why people take up challenges and raise money for charity when their loved one dies. I actally ran my first half marathon after going through greif and raised lots of money for The British Heart foundation. The power of getting out of your comfort zone and doing something that makes you feel brave is so good for taking you out of your sadness.
It may sound weird, but I recently started video blogging. For some people this is no big deal, for me, it’s huge. It scares me to death. After my Mum died, I wanted to scare myself into doing this, almost as a tribute to my Mum’s memory. I’m still struggling but I’m getting braver every day. I think what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter what it is that you so, so long as it’s out of your comfort zone and personal to you!
Look after yourself
My default is to drink too much red wine, but I know what a bad impact that has on my health. I have recently been through a period where I’ve drunk too much, not done enough exercise and watched far too much Netflix. Exercise is the key for me, often a run or simply a walk and chat with good friends. I’m slowly getting back to health with the help of my wonderful friends, family and my boys, my health is worth fighting for!
Take a break from TV and social media
At this time of the year, there are far too many TV adverts, FB Ads, and Instagram reels that appear to be focusing on the perfect Christmas! I love John Lewis guys, but please where is the reality?
We know that Christmas will never be perfect again and seeing all these idyllic Ads is really not helpful. Taking a break and deleting Apps for a few days always helps me. Then when I feel strong enough, I reinstall them and appreciate the break, and can face the media with a better perspective.
Talk to someone who will just listen
There are the people we can talk to and there are the ones who will actually listen. I’ve will admit with shame, that until I experienced grief 17 years, I was not a listener, I was a fixer!
I’ve since learned that you cannot fix grief and the best gift you can offer is to be able to just listen. Grief brings anger, irrationality, sorrow, embarrassment, and occasionally JOY.
Find your listener, even if your listener is a bereavement helpline. Often it is easier to talk to someone who does not know you or your situation and when you feel you need to, reach out, text them, tell them you are having a bad day, and have a chat.
You can call the Cruse National Helpline on 0808 808 1677
There’s no doubt this time can be harder than the rest of the year, every day is hard, but it’s helpful and really important to know that other’s are struggling and you are not alone, that it’s ok to feel crap and not full of festive cheer and know that you are loved.
If you’ve found some great ways of coping that have really helped you, then please do share them in the comments. Thank you