Making it through the holidays after a death

- 08/12/21

For those who've experienced a loss, feelings of grief can often become amplified during times of celebration, when the reality of their loss is most profound. Whether it’s the first celebration after the passing of loved one or the twenty-first, grief is something that truly never leaves us.

As another year draws to its end, families up and down the country will be making plans to gather together and celebrate. Regardless of faith or culture, the end of the year is a special time for most – coming together to spend time with friends and family and exchange gifts and well wishes.

It’s in these moments, gathered together and following a lifetime’s worth of traditions, that the absence of a loved one feels especially poignant. In these moments it can be hard to continue moving forward with reminder of what once was all around you, but you can start the journey of making things more manageable. We’ve put together a few tips that can help you get through the holidays after a loved one’s death.

Don’t ignore your feelings

One of the worst things you can do is push your feelings of grief and sadness aside and pretend they don’t exist. Remember, the sadness you feel from the absence of your loved one is valid and justified. There’s no set time in which you should be ‘over’ a death, only what feels right to you in the moment. By ignoring those feelings we often end up suffering in silence, which only makes us feel worse in the end.

If you can, let your friends and family know that the season ahead may be a difficult one for you, to be aware of your feelings and accept that you may need space from time to time.

Keep their memory alive

Your loved one might be gone, but they’ll never be forgotten. Nor should they be. If your loved one had particular rituals they like to perform over the holiday season, like certain gifts they’d give to certain family members or games they liked to play, keep those memories alive by continuing to do the activities they held so dear.

If the loss is recent, setting a place at the table with a photo of the deceased can help to honour their memory and keep them close to us.

Avoid isolating yourself

Although facing the festive season after a loss can be difficult, it’s important to remain in touch with those we care for and who care for us in return. While our instinct may be to avoid the festivities when we feel sad and don’t feel like celebrating, doing so can actually make us much worse in the long run.

Even if you’re not able to get into the festive spirit like before, being around other people can help to combat the worst feelings of loneliness.

Don’t do too much

Just like some people push their loved ones away, some go in the opposite direction; trying to avoid their negative feelings by taking on too much and overworking themselves. While there’s always plenty to do over the festive period, don’t forget to take time out to breathe and take care of yourself.

Finding a way to channel your feelings and keep yourself busy is an excellent way to manage your grief at a period where you’re likely in a heightened state of emotion, but it’s also important not to overdo things. Often, when we’re busy trying to look after everyone else we forget to look after ourselves.

Reach out for help when you need it

Most importantly, know that you’re not alone. No matter how you feel, chances are there are other people who understand what you’re going through who’d be more than happy to support you in your time of need.

Whether they’re members of your family, friends, a local support group or a friendly listener at Cruse Bereavement support, you’re never alone.

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