Coping with grief at Christmas

It is often said that feelings of grief come in waves and during the holiday season, a time often synonymous with joy and celebration, the weight of loss can become particularly intense. Whether it's the absence of a family member or friend, managing grief during this festive period poses a unique set of challenges.

If you’re struggling right now, here are some suggestions to facilitate observation, lighten the burden of grief, and draw on your support system.

Acknowledge the grief

Recognising grief is the first crucial step in managing its impact. Identifying grief allows us to make informed decisions about self-care. While emotions can be painful, they provide valuable information about our current state, helping us tailor our responses.

Communicate with your community

Grief can influence our actions, making us hesitant to engage with others. It might manifest in texts or calls, causing us to fear commitments we once found manageable. Opening up about our feelings can be vulnerable but immensely rewarding. Simply saying, "Grief about X has come up for me; can we find a way to get Y done together?" creates an opportunity for support. Extending ourselves enough grace to ask for help, irrespective of the outcome, lightens the burden and fosters a sense of connection.

Ease up on expectations

Assessing your current capacity is essential during times of grief. The urge to push through expectations can be strong, leading to either burnout or isolation. By anchoring expectations in what is realistically achievable, you prevent additional heartache. If attending a family function feels overwhelming, consider taking a moment for yourself. Communicate openly about your emotions. If leaving the house is challenging, focus on small self-care activities, such as taking a shower or making a phone call.

Start small and build up

Navigating grief during the holidays requires a gradual approach. Commemorating the person you lost in a way that resonates with you is a personal journey. Whether it involves speaking to them aloud, revisiting shared walks, or simply lighting a candle, these small gestures hold significant meaning. Consider involving friends and family in these rituals, fostering a collective acknowledgment that eases the burden of grief.

Get support

If you’re struggling to cope during the festive season, Cruse Bereavement Support have a helpline which is run by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support to anyone affected by grief. It is open at selected times over the Christmas and New Year period and throughout the year, Cruse also offer one to one support.

At Relate, while we do not offer specific bereavement counselling, we can explore feelings around grief, loss and the impact on relationships in individual counselling. Grief and loss can also impact relationships and this is something you may want to explore in relationship counselling with a partner.

By acknowledging, communicating, and caring for ourselves, we can navigate this challenging time with resilience and build connections that support our healing journey. 

How we can help

If you’re looking for support with your relationships, we can help. We offer a range of ways to speak with a trained relationship expert including ongoing counselling, 30 minute web and phone chats, and one session therapy.

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