I remember reading about grief during the holidays in 2019 and wondering would it ever get easier. This year, after losing yet another grandparent in early December, I’ve come to realise that grief never gets easier, it just changes.
This year so many will be grieving for various things in life from the loss of loved ones to the loneliness of spending Christmas alone due to COVID-19. With that in mind, I’d like to discuss grief and how to cope during the holiday period.
Grief is okay, even at Christmas.
One. It’s okay for your grief rituals to change over time.
Last year was the first time I had been touched with grief. I mean really touched with grief. This year, inevitably it seems, has been no different. Thus our Christmas tree is once again spending it’s holiday season in the attic.
You see, when someone dies, whether it is close to the season or not, we choose not to put up a Christmas tree. It’s either a mark of respect for the fact that it’s too painful a reminder of what we’ve lost. No matter, it suits me just fine. I’m not one for Christmas anyway. But that doesn’t mean that my rituals for dealing with grief will always remain the same. Even the more regular, traditional method of booking off work during the anniversary of their death may change over time. It might become easier for me to be among people on the anniversary of one of the saddest days of my life as opposed to hiding. I might even prefer it.
Everyone’s grieving rituals, including their holiday themed ones, are entitled to change just as we as humans are entitled to change.
Two. It’s okay to still buy gifts and write cards to your loved ones.
I still find myself writing letters to my grandmother despite the fact that she’ll never read them. Although I haven’t had the courage to burn them (which is considered an act of cleansing and sending letters to heaven), I keep them all safely in my memory box.
Even when our loved ones are gone it’s okay to buy them gifts or items you know they would have liked. It’s also okay to write them Christmas cards, letters and even send texts to their old mobile number. If they still have an active voice mail or you have old videos of them, it’s also okay to listen to their voice for comfort. Although it can be heart wrenching and difficult, it’s okay to let yourself feel those emotions from time to time, even during the ‘happiest time of the year.’
Three. It’s okay to find different ways of celebrating.
You don’t have to put up your tree or sit down to dinner. Nor do you have to follow the same old traditions passed down through generations. Although some people may find it comforting to act out rituals from years gone by, others might find it too difficult due to the absence of loved ones.
This year (2020) will go down as one of the strangest and most confusing years in our lifetime. Many families will be separated from loved ones during the holidays due to lockdown, travel restrictions and some may even have lost loved ones throughout the year. No matter your circumstances, there’s no denying that Christmas is going to be very different.
While you may be grieving for what you’ve lost this year, it might also be a good opportunity to practice different traditions. Perhaps you could video call with your loved ones over lunch, visit the grave of a relative and place a wreath, or arrange a Christmas quiz night for all the family!
Christmas doesn’t have to be about a tree or presents or joyfulness. It can just be like any other day but with chocolate for breakfast.
Four. It’s okay to cry but also try to remember the happy times spent with your loved one.
All the adverts and songs glorify Christmas as a happy time of year. We must sing, we must eat, drink and be merry. But it’s also okay to cry. It’s perfectly fine to reminisce of happier times with those we loved and cry for the pain of losing them. Even years later it’s still fine to cry for a grandparent, a parent, a sibling or even a late pet.
But, as difficult as it might seem, it’s also important to remember all the good times and the holidays gone by. I can recall many heartwarming stories of my grandparents at Christmas. From my late grandmother mixing up the Christmas gifts, to the millennium spent celebrating in my late grandfather’s shed, I have so many great memories to bring a smile to my face.
Five. It’s okay to open up and talk to someone.
I always find that being open and honest about your grief is the best policy. The fact is that many people have experienced grief in some shape or form. Grief is something that even the toughest of tough aren’t exempt from.
If you find yourself lonely or struggling on Christmas, why not reach out to a friend or family member for support? If you’d rather speak with someone in confidence, there are a variety of helplines available and online sources available, even on Christmas.
Cruse is just one such charity that can help you cope with bereavement, especially during the holidays. If you’re finding it difficult and just want someone to listen, give them a call on 0808 808 1677 (check here for opening hours).
Grieving before bereavement.
Grief isn’t always limited to the physical loss of a person. Nor is it necessarily limited to bereavement itself. There are a variety of reasons why we might not feel much like celebrating such as you or a loved one battling a chronic illness, dementia, deployment, or simply being away from home during the holiday period.
It’s perfectly okay to grieve for your loss, no matter what that may be. Everyone’s grief is valid!