For many people, Christmas is not just a time for festive parties, sharing gifts and spending time with friends and family. This week, Jaz shares her struggle with grief, highlighting ideas of things that she does, personally, to ease the pain of grief during the Christmas period.
Christmas is meant to be a time of joy and a time spent with your family and friends, but after the loss of a loved one, Christmas can become a painful reminder of those we have lost. A few years ago, I lost my uncle and grandma within the space of four months, and Christmas certainly changed. My grandma made Christmas such a special time for her family, cooking everyone dinner and spoiling us all way too much! I like to think she was almost like the gravy of Christmas dinner… you can still eat the dinner and enjoy it – but the gravy is the part that brings the whole dinner to life. (Possibly a strange metaphor calling her the gravy of Christmas, but you get my point!) Whilst Christmas has not been the same since her passing, as time has gone on, Christmas has now become a time to celebrate her and remember all the incredible childhood memories she made for me and her family. It also has become a reminder that we should cherish those who we still have in our lives that little bit more.
I recognise that grief is a very personal experience, that everyone reacts and copes with it in different ways. It can be a very overwhelming emotion and it is certainly not easy. However, I am here to share ways that have helped me cope in hope that it can inspire others to do things that might mitigate any overwhelming response.
Whilst these are just suggestions, it is important to talk about how you are feeling with friends, family, or mental health services/ professionals (which I shall link at the bottom of the article).
*I will be using my own memories of a lost one to describe what helped me cope*
TAKING TIME TO REMEMBER AND CELEBRATE YOUR LOVED ONE
- Baking or cooking their favourite food:
Making something that they used to do at Christmas can be a beautiful way of remembering them and celebrating them. It is also a lovely activity to do as a family. My grandma made the best trifle at Christmas, and we have continued to make it ever since. For me, it reminds me of the way she used to spoil us and make sure we were all super full (maybe too full… and it was the one day of the year where if you didn’t eat all your dinner, you can still have pudding!).
- Listening to their favourite music:
Sometimes taking a couple of minutes to listen to a few of their favourite songs can be a lovely way of remembering them. It can also be a great way to discuss memories about that person together. For example, my grandma loved the Eagles, and my mum and dad went to a concert with her and there are some beautiful memories attached to that day.
- Going on a walk to their favourite place:
Sometimes going on a walk (on your own or with your family/ friends) can be a good way to get out the house. On occasion, the home can become suffocating or overwhelming after the loss of a loved one and going on a walk to their favourite place is a beautiful way to honour and remember them, and to also get some fresh air! I know that before my grandma passed, she really wanted to go to Fairlight one last time. She never made it to go again but I now like to go up there and go to the tearoom she used to love – I like to think I’m experiencing it again for her.
- Watching home videos and looking at old pictures:
After the loss of my grandma, it could sometimes be quite difficult to watch old videos of us all as a family. However, whilst it can be very overwhelming to watch sometimes, it is also a lovely thing to do with your family and to share memories of your loved one with each other.
- Spending time with your friends and family:
Spending time with the people you love at Christmas is a great way to come together and support each other. Again, it’s a time where you can talk about how you are feeling, share memories, or just to appreciate each other’s company.
- Looking after yourself and remembering that all emotions are valid:
Something that I have found with grief is that it is easy to feel overwhelmed with guilt, for example, laughing or smiling. However, it is it important to remember that it is completely okay to do those things, in fact, it is a positive thing! Keep in touch with your body and allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you are feeling. Remember, grief is a different experience for everyone.
Getting professional support:
Cruse Bereavement Support: https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-support/
NHS mental health services: