Grief in the lead up to Christmas.
The sweet melodies of carols fill every store in town, glittery tinsel everywhere you look, the smell of fresh pine fills the air, work parties are in full swing, parents are dressing their children ready for a photo with Santa (and praying they don’t scream the shopping centre down), supermarkets are emptying their shelves, friends and family are beginning to gather from near and far … it’s Christmas season of course. A time of joy and wonder, of family and memories, of gifts and celebrations. Or at least that’s what it is for most.
The Christmas season isn’t ‘merry and bright’ for everyone however. For so so many, Christmas is a time of heartache as they reflect on the fact that a piece of their heart is missing; a loved one is no longer here. For some their loss is new and this season is chaotic and uncharted territory, for others they have been bereaved for many years. Regardless of time, Christmas (and the lead up to such) can be (and is!), excruciatingly difficult.
To try and help you navigate through this season of pain, reflection, family, friends and all that comes with it, I have compiled a short list of a few things that may help.
1 Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they will be tough.
Take a moment, every day if necessary, to feel the harsh realities of what you’re experiencing. To acknowledge that today will be hard, that you will see things, smell things hear things that all trigger bitter-sweet memories.
When we acknowledge things, we don’t feel as ambushed or helpless when they come to mind.
2 Decide which traditions you want to keep.
Luther Vandross wrote a song after the devastating loss of his wife –
“So much emotion, it's driving me mad
But I'll take my chances with these feelings that I have
And I'll come back to this same corner where we met
And I'll be here every year, every Christmas”
Luther Vandross – Every Year, Every Christmas
Ponder, reflect and decide which traditions you want to continue, which traditions mean the most to you. If you have other family members, may I suggest that you have this conversation with them and bring them along for the journey also, remembering that they too are grieving in this time.
3 Decide which traditions you want to change.
There may be some traditions that are just too painful to continue with and that is ok. There is no shame is changing traditions you once had.
4 Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
Ponder some ideas that you could do to honour their memory – it could be to bake their favourite dessert, watch their favourite movie as a family, take flowers to their favourite place – whatever it is, take the time to make it personal and special. This new tradition will become so very dear to you
5 Decide where you want to spend the holidays – you may want to switch up the location,
or it may be of comfort to keep it the same.
Regardless of your decision (again, neither is right or wrong), simply ensure that you do in fact make a conscious decision in regard to where you would like to spend this Christmas season and communicate this clearly to your close friends and family.
6. Remember that not everyone will be grieving the same way you are grieving.
This is a big one and is one of the hardest to process. I thank God that we were all created differently, however when we’re grieving we can sometimes place our own expectations onto others in regard to how they should be acting, feeling etc.
This only results in disappoint and frustration – so take a moment and remember to be kind to yourself and to others. Our journeys of grief are all different.
7. Enjoy yourself!
Yes, these holidays will be tough, but they will also be filled with overwhelming love and joy. Remember, it is okay to be happy – being happy in no way diminishes your love for your lost loved one, I would say that it in fact honours them!
Open your eyes and your heart and embrace the wonder of this magnificent season, (if even in the smallest of ways each day).
We pray this this season (albeit hard) is filled with grand memories, glorious reflections, joy-filled laughter, family chaos, too much food and precious precious time with those most dear to you.
If you are struggling in this time and in the lead up to Christmas, please email us here at Oh My Grief, it would be our honour and privilege to journey through this season with you.
By Angelica Klein-Boonschate