Dealing with loss at Christmas
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or is it? Many of us take for granted the festive period and the meaning of Christmas. The endless advertising of Christmas paraphernalia before the Halloween stock has even left the shelves. The usual Christmas pop songs playing on repeat.
We become bombarded with advertising campaigns of harmonious families coming together for the all-important overindulgent Christmas meal.
Christmas can be an amazing and festive time to be with those you love – but for those dealing with loss and bereavement, it can also be a painful reminder and a heart wrenching time of year.
Grief and loss is one of the most difficult life experiences anybody could go through, irrespective of the time of year. Dealing with this loss at a time where the majority are feeling celebratory and merry can feel extremely lonely and isolating.
This feeling of loss, missing somebody or a strong part of our identity, or the end of a significant relationship, can be acutely unbearable and at odds with what is going on around us. This sense of coming to terms with inevitable and unwanted change can be enough to want to cancel Christmas altogether.
There is a stark realisation of how this once joyous festive period will never be the same, the reality of a first Christmas with something or someone profoundly missing.
For the most part, people around you may want to help and offer you their advice. Sometimes helpful, but sometimes not, as we are all entitled to grieve and acknowledge loss in our own way.
When people are uncomfortable with sitting with the pain of somebody else’s grief, they can become dismissive and make suggestions that can feel unhelpful or insensitive. The expectation that a certain amount of time has passed, so now you should be over it, as though grief is something you just get over.
Others’ might find it difficult in knowing what to say and avoid bringing up the subject of your loss, thinking that this will mean that you won’t think about it and they won’t have to deal with your sadness. Not quite realising the fact it might feel overwhelming for them to sit with somebody else’s pain.
It may come as an unwelcome fact to those around you that you are not in the mood to acknowledge or celebrate this time of year. It might go against what they think is best for you and however misguided, their intentions are well meaning.
What is important to remember is that it is completely normal and understandable that after the loss of a loved one, there is no motivation to celebrate and join in with the festivities.
The fact is, nobody can dictate to you how you should spend Christmas, if you choose to celebrate or not is a personal choice.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve at Christmas. Give yourself permission to make your needs clear, whether it’s a quiet celebration, a full on Christmas spread, or just another day. You could use this time for creating and establishing new traditions. Ultimately, the decision is yours.
During the grieving process there are ways of managing, coping and seeking additional support.
The following links offer further advice:
I’m Lizandra Leigertwood, a counsellor and psychotherapist where I work with individuals and couples in St Albans, Hertfordshire and I also work online, you can find out more about me here.
If you would like counselling and support get in touch to book a consultation.