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What I wish I’d known about dealing with loss at Christmas

5 min read
14 December 2020

Last year, I lost my grandmother at the beginning of December. This made Christmas celebrations in my household very different to any other year prior to this one. Last Christmas was very difficult to get through, and so the following are some things I wish someone would have told me during this time.

 

1. Try your best not to feel guilty

During the Christmas holidays there is often an unspoken pressure on everyone to come across as cheerful. Please know that you do not have to pretend that you’re okay just for the comfort of others. You are not letting anyone down by feeling low, and it’s highly likely that other people in your family are feeling the same way as you are. I assure you that you are not the only one who is grieving.

It is so incredibly important not to suppress your emotions as this will, firstly, make you feel so much worse and, secondly, that emotion won’t just go away, it will continue to build up and could lead to something very damaging. Try your best to allow yourself to feel what you need to.

Try your best to allow yourself to feel what you need to.

Similarly, remember that everyone grieves differently. What you need during this time will be different to what others need. You may feel guilty for not grieving in a way that seems ‘normal’, but I can assure you that everyone is going to feel slightly different at this time. You do not need to present the textbook symptoms of grieving for your feelings to be valid and important.

2. You are not alone

A lot of people are experiencing the same thing that you are right now. Now, I’m not saying this to invalidate what you are going through, your experiences are just as important as everyone else’s. I’m saying this because, when dealing with loss, it is perfectly normal to feel lonely, which is very understandable, but I promise you that you’re not alone in the slightest. There are so many people who understand how it feels to lose someone, and therefore know that these feelings can resurface around special occasions, such as Christmas.

There are so many people that you can reach out to who care about you and your wellbeing. This can include family, friends, work colleagues, teachers, or mental health professionals and volunteers. On Christmas day last year, I talked to someone from a helpline service which was incredibly helpful and I’d definitely recommend doing this if it’s something you’re comfortable with.

On Christmas day last year, I talked to someone from a helpline service which was incredibly helpful.

3. Take time to remember your loved one

Especially if this is your first Christmas without the person you’ve lost, Christmas day is likely going to feel very odd and possibly empty without them. Therefore, it may be beneficial to take some time out of your day to remember your loved one. You could do this with your family or friends, or alone if you’d prefer; whatever you feel most comfortable with is completely okay.

This could be something such as lighting a candle in their memory, looking through photos of your loved one, discussing positive memories you’ve had with this person, or writing down everything that you would like to say to this individual (like in a letter). This way, it will feel as though you are including the person that you’ve lost in your Christmas celebrations.

This could be something such as lighting a candle in their memory, looking through photos of your loved one, discussing positive memories you’ve had with this person, or writing down everything that you would like to say to this individual (like in a letter).

4. Take as much time as you need

You don’t need to feel pressured to do certain things over the holidays. Be mindful of how you feel during this time and respond to what you feel you need. If you feel like you need to take some time out to collect yourself, there is no shame in allowing yourself to do so.

Being kind to yourself is very important when grieving. Do whatever you feel comfortable with, don’t be too down on yourself if you feel as though you are unable to do what you would usually do at Christmas. The people around you will understand that this time will be especially difficult; they won’t blame you for not partaking in everything.

If you feel like you need to take some time out to collect yourself, there is no shame in allowing yourself to do so.

I understand that this year will be especially difficult due to everything that’s going on at the moment. This is why it is so important to let yourself feel what you need to. It will not feel this bad forever - the pain will subside. You just need to give yourself some time.

Where to get help

When you lose someone close to you, it’s natural to feel sad, depressed, worried or angry. Everyone reacts in their own way. We have lots of tips, advice and information on where to get support on our grief and loss page.

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