How to Cope When You’re Spending Christmas Without a Loved One 0

Spending Christmas without a loved one

“’Tis the season to be jolly” – but if you’re grieving, the very idea of Christmas can be daunting. Untangling the Christmas tree lights, filling stockings, pulling crackers together: all the little family rituals of the season can stir up bittersweet memories, while the festive feeling everywhere can be isolating. The whole world is celebrating, and you’d … rather not.

If the prospect of spending Christmas without a loved one is filling you with dread, it can help to make a few plans and resolutions for the day. With the aid of Naomi and Steve Game-Blackmoor of Holding Dear, a service offering professional therapeutic support to the bereaved, we’ve put together some ideas for those coping with loss at Christmas.

 

How to cope with Christmas after a bereavement

Everyone grieves differently, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with grief at Christmas. Take what you need from the tips below, and leave anything that doesn’t speak to you.

 

1) Remember that it’s okay to be sad – or happy

It's natural to feel sad when you're spending Christmas without a loved one.A lot of bereaved people struggle with sad thoughts at Christmas, but feel under pressure to “put on a happy face” for their friends and family. Others find a lot of happiness while celebrating, but discover that the idea of enjoying Christmas without a loved one there fills them with a kind of guilt.

Steve and Naomi say that it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to how you feel. “Honouring how we feel is very important,” Steve explains. “Pretending we feel differently just to please everyone else is often unhelpful.

“We would want to reassure [someone who is bereaved at Christmas] that what they are feeling is perfectly normal and okay.”

Remind yourself that it’s okay to be happy, or sad – or, as is likely, a strange mixture of the two. You have a right to express those feelings, and not hide them away.

Don’t be afraid to accept or ask for help if you need it, either from friends and family or from a bereavement professional. You don’t have go it alone!

 

2) Make a plan for Christmas day

When you’re struggling with grief at Christmas, it can help to make a plan for the day that will keep you occupied.

Keeping busy doing something like cooking biscuits can help you cope with grief at ChristmasThis plan doesn’t have to be conventional. You could skip the traditional Christmas activities and go for a long walk with a picnic instead, for example, or join a park run or volunteer for a charity. You might spend some time in the evening calling up old friends to catch up, cooking up a storm, or watching films under a big blanket. Don’t be pressured into spending Christmas the way you “ought” to spend it.

If you want to be alone, Steve adds, that’s okay too. “There can be a very substantial pressure on us to be around others at Christmas when we’re not feeling up to it. We encourage people to give themselves permission to be alone if they wish.”

If family and friends are uncomfortable leaving you alone at Christmas, make it clear that this is what you want. Ask them to call you at some point during the day to check in, instead.

 

3) Find ways to remember the person who has died

A lot of bereaved families find it comforting to commemorate their loved one by bringing them into their Christmas celebrations in some way.

As Steve explains: “There need be no grand gestures – just simple gestures, but which never the less, serve to include our loved-ones in the festivities. These gestures could, over time, become a family custom and tradition.”

A lit candle can help you remember a loved one at ChristmasSome ideas for remembering loved ones at Christmas might be:

  • Visiting their grave, or the place their ashes were scattered
  • Lighting a candle for them
  • Raising a glass to them at dinner
  • Playing their favourite music
  • Sharing stories about them with each other
  • Cooking their favourite festive snacks
  • Writing them a letter

Naomi adds that such small, familiar rituals helped after she lost her daughter Katie: “During Christmas dinner, it has become a tradition for us to light a candle on the table and to have a flower arrangement close by.

“We feel that Katie continues to be a very important part of the season, and these traditions have helped us to cope with her loss, particularly at Christmas.”

A lot of funeral directors hold annual gatherings or church services for remembrance at Christmas. Ask the funeral director who arranged your loved one’s send-off if there is an event you can attend.

 

4) Look after yourself

Getting lots of rest is important when you're bereaved at ChristmasWe all over-indulge and over-extend ourselves a little over the Christmas period. Yet the late nights, the odd extra drink (or two, or four) – plus random mealtimes squeezed between shopping, cooking, and wrapping – can all take a heavy toll if you’re already feeling low and run-down with grief.

Guidelines from the charity Cruse Bereavement Care stress that, even if you’re busy, it’s important to look after yourself when you’re grieving. While the odd extra festive tipple can be nice, try not to rely on alcohol to make the day easier. Instead, it can help a lot to establish a good routine with plenty of sleep, regular meals and lots of relaxation. Make time for yourself.

 

5) Share your memories

Sharing memories can help when you're coping with loss at ChristmasWhen you’re bereaved, the person who has died is never far from your thoughts – especially at Christmas. So, why not share your memories of them with the people around you? Rather than “spoiling the mood”, you’re likely to find that it opens up space for friends and family to share their memories, as well. This can be very comforting, Steve and Naomi say.

“When visiting families to make the arrangements for the funeral ceremony, I encourage them to reminisce in all sorts of ways,” Steve explains. “The act of remembering can be incredibly reassuring when we’re grieving.”

Remembering loved ones at Christmas can also be painful, and you may feel sad. But that’s normal. By acknowledging your feelings, and expressing them, you and those close to you can help each other through the day.

You don’t have to talk to friends and family about your loss at Christmas. For a friendly, impartial listener, try Cruse Bereavement Care’s free helpline, which runs from 9.30am to 5pm, on 0808 808 1677. The Samaritans line is also open 24/7 at 116 123.

Spending Christmas without a loved one can be hard. But, over time, the day can take on new meaning, as a way to honour them and celebrate the happiness you shared with them. Just remember to look after yourself, and to go easy on yourself, too: there’s no right or wrong way to get through the day.

 

Steven Game-Blackmoor is an award-winning ceremonial officiant and grief therapist working in Staffordshire, where he works with other professional psychotherapists and counsellors to offer pastoral support to people who are grieving.
Naomi Game-Blackmoor is the author of ‘There’s No Place Like Home,’ a book for parents who have lost their child. A trained psychotherapist, she has worked alongside grief specialists and organisations since losing her daughter Katie, in 2003, and has recently joined the funeral industry.
You can find out more about Steven and Naomi’s work with the bereaved at the Holding Dear website.
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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Losing a Parent 136

losing a parent

Grief will vary from person to person, though there are certain emotions and circumstances that many of us will experience. It can often be a source of comfort to hear from someone who has experienced the emotional rollercoaster of losing a loved one and has come out on the other side. With this in mind, we present this guest post from Kiri Nowak, who blogs over at The Content Wolf. Kiri shares her experience of bereavement after losing a parent, and some things she’s learned along the way.

It’s hard to even put how it feels to lose a parent into words, but the key thing to keep in mind is there is no normal way of reacting. I haven’t just felt one emotion since my father passed, my experience has been more like travelling the world. Each stage of your journey will be completely different, and as you wander through your grief, emotions will come and go.

It’s been nearly 11 years since my father died (I was 18 when it happened), so I think I can safely say I’ve been through it all; the shock, the sadness, the anger, the guilt, and, eventually, the acceptance. There’s no universal manual to help you deal with the loss of a parent, so when it does happen, a lot of feelings, occurrences and interactions with other people can take you by surprise.

bereavement

From my personal experience, I’ve put together some things which I experienced that you might not have thought about or expected to happen. As soon as you lose a parent it feels like your life has fallen apart and you are caught up in a whirlwind, but you do eventually get your feet back on the ground, I promise. The pain doesn’t go away, you just learn how to accept it, channel it and use it as a way of cherishing the person who was so cruelly taken from you.

Here are ten things nobody tells you about losing a parent.

  1. It doesn’t sink in for a while

Initially you might not feel anything. It may even seem like you are stuck in a dream, and everything that is going on isn’t really happening. I definitely went through the first month, if not the first year on autopilot, but eventually everything does catch up with you and you start to feel less numb.

It’s particularly hard when you lose a parent because initially you just can’t face the prospect of living your life without them, and the only way for some people to cope is to pretend like it’s not really happening.  Confronting and accepting that the pain is there is scary, but you need to do it to start the grieving process.

  1. You don’t have to be strong all the time

When my father died, I tried so hard to be strong for my mum and little sister, and show everybody how resilient and tough I was. But just remember you can only put on an act for so long. Pushing the pain below the surface so no one can see it is exhausting. It’s OK to lose your composure, to have an outburst of emotion in public or privately at home or to completely fall apart. We take a lot of strength from our parents, so when you lose one of them, it’s crushing.

  1. You will remember their best bits

One thing I’ve noticed is that you tend to idolise the parent you’ve lost. Why? Well, firstly, because they were your parent who you respected and loved, but also because you can’t bear to criticise them in any way when they aren’t around to defend themselves. It feels like the easiest way to remember them is in the best possible light. However, it’s important to keep in mind not everyone’s perfect, and it’s OK to have negative memories as well as positive ones.

  1. You will probably feel guilty in some way, but you need to let it go

I’ve gone through the day my father died a thousand times and thought about what I could have done differently. I wasn’t at home the last night he was alive, when he was in pain, for reasons I won’t go into. This kills me. But I can’t change it. I know if my dad was around he wouldn’t hold it against me.

I’ve also gone back and punished myself mentally for all the times that I wasn’t the perfect daughter, or when I was mean to my dad. My mum, sister and I used to gang up on him occasionally, because he was the only man in the house, but that’s nothing unusual and he took it in his stride. It’s not a reason for me to feel bad, because he knew exactly how much I loved him.

This isn’t helpful, and you are just being unnecessarily cruel to yourself. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t do or times where you messed up, remember the times you made your parent proud or happy.

  1. How lost you will feel

Your parents cared for you from the moment you entered this world, they nurtured you and showed you the way. So when you find yourself without one of your parents, you immediately feel lost. I think the hardest times for me have been when I’ve really needed to talk to my dad for advice.

When life has been tough, and I’ve needed his strength and his guidance, I’ve felt so lost and alone. But slowly I’ve learned to live with my father’s spirit inside me, and if I’m completely honest, I usually know what he would say or want me to do even though he’s not here to say it.

  1. Childhood memories fade faster than expected

My sister seems to have a much better memory than me, but one thing we both agree on is how hard it is to recall memories. It feels like he’s slipping out my fingers, and as the years pass, the memories fade a little more. However, the important, wonderful, powerful memories never leave you, they stay with you forever.

Like the time when he cried when we made him a photo memory book for Christmas, when his voice boomed at me when he cheered me on at races, and when we sang Bruce Springsteen Glory Days until our lungs gave out on car journeys to Spain. Don’t worry, even if you forget things over time, the best memories will never leave you.losing a parent

  1. After a year or so, other people won’t really care

People forget you are grieving. They offer their condolences in the first few weeks, sure, but not too long after that, they just get on with their lives, and it hurts. But don’t take it to heart too much, it’s just the way people are. It doesn’t take away from what you are experiencing at all.

Just remember there are others going through the same as you, and they will be much more likely to understand. They will be the only people who truly, wholeheartedly get what you are going through.

For other people life goes on, which is cruel and thoughtless and it will no doubt make you angry. But it shouldn’t, because they just don’t understand. They haven’t been through such a devastating loss. 11 years after my father’s death I still suffer, but my close friends don’t really see it. They can’t relate to the fact that on some days, the pain I feel is still as raw as the day it happened.

  1. How painful important milestones are

When you lose a parent, it’s the big milestones that really test you. The big birthdays, the achievements, the weddings and the thought of potentially having your own kids who will never know their grandad. However, there are ways to include your late parent in these milestones, and as time goes on, you see them as a chance to remember and celebrate their part in your life rather than simply suffering through these events all the time. For example, I’m getting married in eight months, and I’ve found some wonderfully touching and creative ways to make my father a part of the wedding, and these little things will no doubt help me get through the day and remember him with pride.

  1. How hard it is when you are unexpectedly reminded of your loss

Sometimes, you will be doing OK and managing your grief, when something catches you off guard. And then suddenly a surge of powerful emotion hits you like a tidal wave. For me I think the most challenging times have been when something has reminded me of my dad. When I watch a film and someone’s dad dies, or when a song comes on the radio that reminds me of him, or most recently, when I was at a wedding and the bride unexpectedly called for a father daughter dance. Ouch. That hurts, especially as my wedding is coming up. But these moments, even though they are hard, sometimes they are the perfect way to let go of some of that emotion you’ve tried so hard to keep from bursting, and after you’ve had a little cry, you feel a little bit better.

  1. How you eventually come to view your grief with love and appreciation

I’m not going to lie, like I mentioned, at times, the pain is just as raw as it’s ever been. But generally, I’ve entered a new stage of my grief. When I’m reminded of my dad, I use it as an opportunity to cherish his memory, and to dedicate a minute or two of my day to him, and someday, even if it doesn’t feel like it, you will be able to do the same. Now I live every day and my father is there no matter what I’m doing, and I’m grateful he touched my life in such a powerful and beautiful way.

If you’re struggling with a loss, head over to our help centre to see our resources on grief, loss and bereavement, or take a look at our article on coping with grief at Christmas.

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Do you have a bereavement story you’d like to share? We want to hear from you. You can get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] – anonymously, if you wish. Your responses will only be seen by Beyond and we will publish them only with your permission.

10 Ways to Cope With Grief 0

10 ways to cope with grief - talking about death

The loss of a loved one can result in a period of grieving that’s emotionally straining and difficult to manage. Though everyone processes their strong emotions in different ways, we thought it might be helpful to take a look at ten ways to cope with grief and bereavement. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good a place to start.

 

  1. Talk about it

One of the ways to cope with grief is talking to someone you know well about how you’re feeling can often help ease the grief of losing a loved one. Expressing yourself is an important means of processing events and acknowledging how much of an effect an individual had on you.

  1. 10 ways to cope with grief - talking about deathUnderstand that these are natural feelings

When grieving, it’s helpful to understand that the strong emotions you’re experiencing are natural and not something to suppress or be concerned about. After the loss of a loved one, some people struggle with their grief, interpreting it as weakness of character or as something to be ashamed of. However, this simply isn’t true. Those feelings that often constitute grief – sadness, anger and betrayal, amongst others – are natural responses to bereavement and should be treated as such.

 

  1. Eat well

Your diet has an enormous impact on both your mental state and general health. Changing it radically, by eating unhealthy foods, consuming too much or not eating enough, can make coping with grief even more difficult.

 

  1. Maintain your routine

Routine can have a calming and soothing effect on those suffering with grief as it allows them to begin resuming their own lives after the loss of someone close. If your regular routine is interrupted, it can encourage feelings of being adrift without direction or purpose.

 

  1. Avoid substances that seem to help you cope

There are a number of substances, most notably alcohol and other drugs, which seem to help numb pain and grief. Though this may appear to help you overcome your immediate problems, it is more likely to leave you feeling worse when the grief inevitably returns and it may also result on you becoming dependent on the substance for emotional support.

 

  1. Give yourself time

The grieving process can vary in length from person to person. While some people will find themselves feeling better and leaving those emotions behind within a matter of weeks, others can feel the effects for years. When it comes to coping with grief, it’s important that you’re patient and recognise that time contributes to your healing in a powerful way.

 

  1. Try not to disrupt your sleeping pattern

Though you may experience trouble sleeping after losing a loved one, it’s helpful to try and keep to your regular sleeping hours if possible. Grieving can be a draining, and emotionally and physically tiring process, so sleep plays a vital part in helping you cope.

 

  1. Join a support group

It’s often beneficial to be with, and speak to, others that are going through the same process. While they’re not for everyone, support groups can help you feel less alone and give you a forum in which to express yourself openly.

 

  1. Exercise

While we often acknowledge that talking about your feelings can result in a rewarding emotional release, it’s also important to recognise the benefits of a physical release. Regular exercise allows you to work out some of your internal thoughts and feelings in a purely physical manner and stimulates the production of biological substances that can help you cope with your grief.

 

  1. See your GP

Finally, if you’re struggling with your grief and feel you need to talk to someone, it’s a good idea to visit your GP. They should be able to help you to take the first steps in processing your grief and can usually point you in the direction of other services that may also be of assistance.