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Coping with Grief at Christmas

Posted on December 4th, 2023

Christmas is often seen and felt as a meaningful time, usually spent with friends and families, remembering times gone by and looking ahead, with hope, to a fresh start in a brand-new year. Whether or not you mark the occasion from a religious point of view, the festive period is considering to be a time for togetherness – meaning for some, including those that have lost someone close to them, the season can be tinged with sadness and a heightened sense of grief and loss even compared with other times of the year.

When it comes to coping with grief at Christmas, as throughout the year, there is no universal answer; our sense of loss and sadness – while it may be shared with and felt by other people around us – is individual and everyone experiences it differently. We understand that what may bring comfort to one, may feel too painful, bittersweet or poignant to others, but we’ve collated a few ways that you might wish to remember your lost loved one or take steps to manage your grief this festive season.

Leaning on, or talking to, others

It’s all too easy to feel alone in your grief, even when you’re surrounded by crowds of people… while it can feel difficult to be around loved ones, friends or neighbours, spending time with people you care about and can trust often may bring extra comfort and reassurance – or even just some much-needed distraction – throughout the festive period.

Taking time to get together, especially if you can talk and share stories about that special person no longer with you, reminisce on good times gone past, and look back at fond Christmas memories, while bittersweet, can be a wonderful way to bring the person you’ve lost with you into the season’s celebrations and even bring a further sense of closeness with those around you.

For some, however, the season may bring a sense of pressure to be sociable or to put yourself into social situations that may make you feel overwhelmed – or simply very sad. Those that care about you will likely worry about the thought of their grieving friend being alone, especially at Christmas – but remember that even though it may sometimes be hard for others to understand, needing time to quietly reflect on your own is not something to feel guilty about. Taking time to explain how you feel, allowing yourself the space to rest, reflect – and feel sadness if you need to – in your own way, may be what is best for you and your bereavement journey this Christmas.

Creating new traditions – whilst honouring old ones

It can be difficult and upsetting to consider how the future might look having lost someone important to us; the sense that we are supposed to ‘move on’ can feel a lot like fearing you are going to forget a person that meant so much. But taking steps to find comfort or joy throughout the festive period, changing your habits or trying something different, need not mean leaving the past and fond memories behind; rather finding new ways to cope moving forward, and even enjoy yourself whilst still remembering those no longer with us, can have a much-needed and deserved positive impact throughout a difficult time of year.

This may be as simple as choosing a specific time and raising a toast… making a charitable donation in someone’s memory… sharing stories and anecdotes over a Christmas meal… adding a new ornament to the tree or placing an old favourite decoration pride of place… listening to the music that reminds you of them… or even writing your feelings and memories into a card to be placed on the mantlepiece.

Your future will undoubtedly look a little different without your loved one by your side, especially at Christmas, but this need not mean you cannot and should not find and create moments of joy around you.

Seeking support when you need it

If you’re struggling with your grief, feeling overwhelmed by social pressure either from yourself or those around you, or you’re simply not sure how to navigate the festive season following a bereavement, please know that you are not alone. Reaching out and sharing your feelings or worries with someone that you feel you can trust, if you can, may be that most important first step towards receiving the support you need, whatever form that may take.

While this could be a friend, neighbour or family member, there are other options if you’d prefer to talk to a professional or simply someone impartial; you can find some resources and contact information below, but please do feel free to call the Freedom Funerals team on 01206 862 963 if you need to talk, or to be pointed in the right direction.

The Samaritans
Call 116 123 for free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year or email jo@samaritans.org
www.samaritans.org

St Helena Hospice
Call the bereavement support team on 01206 984 274 (Mon-Fri, 9:00am to 5:00pm).
www.sthelena.org.uk

Cruse Bereavement Support
The free helpline will be open from 10:00am-2:00pm on Christmas and Boxing Day this year (and otherwise 9:30am-3:00pm Mon-Thurs); call 0808 808 1677.
www.cruse.org.uk

Other forms of support are available on a local level, so do look into what services, charities, groups and organisations are operating in your area across the festive season.

If you need support following a bereavement, or need practical advice with planning a funeral or ‘what to do next’ after you lose someone you love, please do get in touch by emailing info@freedomfunerals.co.uk, calling 01206 862 963, or visiting our contact form.