Preparing for the Christmas season
Knowing how to deal appropriately with grief in a time of celebration is a discussion that occurs regularly at Christmas time. It is an important discussion and one that I want to unpack a little this week.
The most obvious statement for me to make is that Christmas and the celebrations that come with it will take place whether you want them to or not, whether you feel ready or not, and no matter how hard you may try to avoid it.
Traditionally Christmas is when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The singing of familiar Christmas Carols becomes the great storyteller for both young and old and in different languages across the globe. Santa reminds us of St Nicholas; our giving of gifts reminds us of God's greatest gift to humanity, His only son, Jesus Christ. As time has gone on and faith has become less embraced, the Christmas season has very much evolved into a time of family and friends without the focus of the birthday of Jesus. This in itself has magnified those loved ones who are no longer with us; “I should be with my loved one, it is Christmas.”
So here are a few suggestions:
- Give yourself permission to do less (do you really have to send Christmas cards this year?).
- Be quick to ask for help. If you’re not coping well sometimes a chat with a trusted friend can make a huge difference, perhaps walking and chatting would be a really good idea.
- Let yourself have fun. It is more than ok to enjoy the Christmas season, not despite your loved one, but because of them. If you are feeling great then go for it.
- If you think you will need some alone time schedule it into your day beforehand.
- Re-tell the stories, the memories, and use the deceased’s name as you smile, laugh and cry with other family members and friends.
- Perhaps plan a ‘day of nothing’ for Boxing Day (or as soon as possible) just to give you a chance to reenergise.
- Be kind on yourself…it is what it is.
I enjoyed reading an email I subscribe to from ‘What’s Your Grief’ that offered the following thoughts on what not to do and say to a friend or relative who is grieving:
Most of these are not specific to the holidays and are good to remember year round. Please, please, pretty please, do not:
Avoid. Yes, it is hard when you do not know what to do or say, but avoiding your friend is one of the worst things you can do! Just be present, be patient, and listen.
Minimise or sugar coat. Do not tell someone it could be worse or start any sentence with the phrase “at least”.
Tell someone they need to be strong. Whether it is telling adults they need to be strong for the kids, kids that they need to be strong for the adults, or any other variation, just do not say it! People put enough pressure on themselves to be strong, a better message is letting people know it is okay to express their feelings and to take a break if they need one this year.
Disappear. It is great if you are supporting your friend during the holiday season. Do not forget to keep the support going after the holiday. Keep checking in and helping out.
With just 4 sleeps to go, I encourage you to be proactive in preparing for Christmas Day.
Whether you celebrate with others, have alone time, go to your favourite place, visit the grave, write your loved one a letter, sing your favourite carols, eat way too much and give great presents….plan your day!
Merry Christmas to you and your family from all of us at Oh My Grief.
By Steve Morrison