We all know that this can be a stressful time of year! Organising Christmas presents and food for everyone can be a logistical nightmare, and the anticipation and expectations around the traditional family catch-up is a stress unto its own.
Family gatherings can bring up lots of old hidden tensions and an opportunity to air them, bury them or reinvent them.
It can also be a particularly tough time for those who are dealing with a first Christmas without a loved one due to bereavement. If this is you or a member in your family consider the following points.
A few things to remember as you navigate this time:
- Plan ahead. Think about the day. You may decide to break completely with tradition and do something else or to keep things within your old tradition. What are your hopes and fears? Let someone know and gather support in advance.
- Be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much from yourself and/or others. This is new territory for you all. None of you may know ‘what to say’ or ‘how to act’. So take the pressure off you. Keep it simple -show up and see what happens. No expectations!
- Do what you need to do to support you. If that means crying, sleeping or going home early, prioritise yourself and do what is in your best interest. Everyone is on your side. Remember it is the first year and the litany of ‘firsts’ (anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, Christmas) that can be hard as it is new and unknown territory.
- Its going to be different. It is different! It may feel empty, sad and just plain ‘not right’. You will find a new norm but for now it is perfectly normal to be grieving the loss of the old familiar ‘norm.’
- Acknowledge your/the loved ones absence. Talk about them. Tell stories about them. Reminisce. Propose a toast to them. Honour their importance in your life. If it is someone else in your gathering who is grieving, initiate the conversation. Guaranteed most people will feel better for talking and acknowledging they are not there. This can be something you think about and plan before the day.
- Take a quiet private moment at some point during the day to connect with your deceased loved one and send them a personal thought/ prayer/love. Christmas is supposed to be about connecting with our loved ones- don’t leave them off the list.
- Expect to feel a bit melancholy before, during and afterwards.
- Celebrate that you got through the day. Give yourself a hug, a pat on the back or your own shoulder to cry on if need be. I say it again- be kind to yourself and acknowledge you got through it.
- Plan something for the day after your traditional Christmas gathering. Make a specific plan like a lunch or dinner date. It doesn’t have to be too big or taxing, it could be going somewhere or even a phone catch up. Plan to nap! Often the build up to this day can be emotionally exhausting. Having a plan for after this day, signals to us that our life continues on.
- Give yourself permission to recover. Bereavement is a process. Going through these events are part of the journey.Go gently. Be kind.
Christmas is about coming together and connecting with those we love. The person we loved may have died but our love for them lives on within, so it is natural to grieve the loss of the physical interactions.
It is sad. Honour the sadness as you would the joy.
Grief is the price we pay for loving, however our love lives on.
Merry Christmas to you all from Memoleaves.