Grief at Christmas
If you have lost a loved one then Christmas can be a painful time. We frequently couple the Christmas period with time spent with loved ones. The entire spirit of Christmas can seem to centre around buying gifts for loved ones, celebrating and eating together, enjoying each other's company and celebrating each other's importance. When you have lost a loved one you can feel excluded from this, Christmas can serve to be a reminder of that loss and it can open up fresh wounds that perhaps you felt you were coping with.
Know that this is a dreadful but normal part of grieving, we can fluctuate in our relationship with grief, one day it's with us as a gentle murmur, the next we've had a good day and maybe experience guilt and then days later we can experience a crushing sense of sadness or anger and we really feel and connect with the pain of the loss.
Grief isn't linear, it often doesn't run a straightforward course, you might feel at a loss and out of control as you move backwards and forwards between emotional states, know that this too can be a normal part of grieving for someone who was important to us.
Christmas day can be devastatingly hard for many people coping with loss. Often people look at the first Christmas as something to survive and can be surprised when they find themselves experiencing sadness on the subsequent Christmas days. Allow yourself your grief, care for yourself though the emotions in the way that you would care for someone you loved.
Allowing your grief in is important, emotional expression followed by soothing can make us feel more at peace. If you find that you can't find your emotions, that you cant cry - there isn't anything wrong with you, sometimes the loss can be so great that we depersonalise our feelings and they become hard to reach. This doesn't mean you didn't love your lost one, quite the opposite. As time goes on try to allow yourself your feelings but balance them with distraction techniques and activities which occupy your mind.
With grief work we often work with sadness, anger, guilt, feelings of loss and isolation and then we move onto learning to live in a different way, without the loved one.
Plan for balance this festive period, allowing yourself to really own how you feel alongside doing things that you used to enjoy - it might be something as simple as a film you loved or revisiting a book that you enjoyed. Let people around you know if you are struggling, we will all experience grief, there is no right way to do it and if you find that you really cannot move on try coming to a bereavement charity counselling service, sometimes a little bit more support can be all that's needed.
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About Kirsten Antoncich
Kirsten Antoncich is an UKCP/MBACP Integrative psychotherapist and counsellor working with adults, families and young people via face to face contact in the rural Yorkshire Dales and via video contact nationally.