The first Christmas without a loved one can be difficult. Coping with grief at any time isn’t easy, but the festive period can be especially challenging. Even if you lost someone a long time ago, Christmas could bring memories to the surface again.
However, the key things to remember are to give yourself time, only do what you’re comfortable with, look after yourself and let yourself remember and pay tribute to your loved one if it’s something you want to do.
Here are some practical ways to help navigate your way through Christmas without a loved one.
Celebrate Christmas in a different way
If you are recently bereaved or are still grieving a loss, you may either feel that you don’t wish to celebrate Christmas this year or you want to celebrate as normal. Alternatively, you might want to try out something different and create some new traditions. Whatever you feel comfortable with is the best way to spend the day. Don’t feel pressured into things you don’t feel ready for just because you feel you should.
If you want to, you can still pay tribute to your loved one – whether that’s visiting their final resting place or a location that was special with them. You may wish to sit and say some words to them, look over photographs, play a special piece of music, or bring a supportive friend or relative and take a moment to pay tribute to them together.
Try to keep yourself healthy and stay in a routine
The Christmas period may feel like an upheaval, therefore disrupting your normal routine. But try and keep up your routine as much as you possibly can, and don’t forget to look after yourself. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eating healthily, drinking water, getting fresh air, and regular exercise. These small things will make a huge difference to your mental and physical wellbeing during a challenging period.
Focus on the good times as much as you can
The grieving process is difficult and unpredictable. It can be all-consuming, and it can feel like it’ll never end and that things will never get better – but these thoughts are completely normal and natural. Christmas can heighten these emotions as it’s an intensely emotional period. However, occasions like Christmas can reignite happy memories of good times shared in the past as time passes. Although this might feel more difficult if it’s your first Christmas without a loved one, as time goes on, the more happy memories you’ll remember.
Don’t feel bad about skipping Christmas films or festivities
One of the reasons Christmas can be so tough for people is that you’re constantly bombarded by images, stories and movies of people enjoying happy times with their families. Understandably, this might feel too much for you. If it is, you might want to turn off the TV and take a break from social media. Try and distract yourself with things you know will make you happy, whether that’s a walk in the fresh air, volunteering or taking part in an existing or new hobby.
Spend it with people who understand
You might want to spend Christmas alone or with family and/or friends. If you do like the idea of having company, make sure you’re spending it with people who understand what you’re going through. That way, you can take time away, have a moment of quiet, or let your emotions out without judgement or expectation. Talking can help, especially if the company you’re with are understanding and supportive. They’ll be only too happy to lend an ear, and if they knew your loved one as well, to talk about memories together.
Look after yourself and treat yourself to something you’re going to enjoy. Grief and loss are complex, and while gifts won’t cure the pain and difficult feelings, they could still lift your spirits a little. For example, you could put together a care package with comforting items like sleep spray, bubble bath, tea bags, delicious chocolate and a good book. Or if there’s something you’ve been eyeing up for a while, like a cosy jumper or a piece of jewellery, Christmas could be a lovely time to treat yourself.
Remembering a loved one at Christmas
It can be difficult to find a way to pay tribute to a loved one at Christmas time. However, there are lots of really lovely ways to remember someone you’ve lost. For example, lighting a special candle near a picture of them. Or when you’re decorating, you could hang something of theirs on the tree, or hang a decoration that features their name or photo.
You might also like to pay tribute to them by doing something you knew they would’ve enjoyed. For example, watching their favourite film, listening to their favourite music, or cooking their favourite food. You may wish to meet up with family and friends and visit a place special to them or do a walking route that they enjoyed.
There’s help out there if you are struggling, including telephone support, such as The Samaritans. You can also access bereavement counselling via your GP or privately. The NHS also suggests contacting a support organisation, such as Cruse Bereavement Care.
Grief Encounter charity
Grief Encounter is an incredible charity that supports children following the untimely death of a family member. They seek to help with the confusion, fear, loneliness and pain that any child would inevitably experience upon losing a loved one. The charity provides them with a lifeline to cope with free, immediate one-to-one support.
We’re so impressed with everything they do, and we’re so delighted to support them as our charity of the year. We planned a series of fundraising, which we started in June by donating 10% of all profits to Grief Encounter for 30 days. We’re pleased to say that we raised £3,256, which is enough to fund 56 1:1 counselling sessions for bereaved children. If you would like to find out more about this incredible charity, please visit their website: https://www.griefencounter.org.uk/