Grieving over Christmas and New Year - practical ways to cope

Candle in front of many defocused candleflames creating a spiritual atmosphere and in remembrance of

Cruse Bereavement Care is available over the Christmas and New Year period for those who need support - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The festive period is seen as a time for celebrations with loved ones, but if you are bereaved it can be a time of immense grief.

Jane O’Riordan, bereavement volunteer at Cruse Bereavement Care Suffolk, said this will be even more the case this year when so many more people have lost loved ones.

She said: "Whether you were bereaved in 2020 or many years before, the ongoing coronavirus restrictions mean it is going to be difficult for many of us to be with the people we would most want to see.

"It is going to be more important than ever to try and look after yourself and work out the best ways to cope.

"Don’t be alarmed if your emotions take over. Try and put yourself and your family first and don’t be afraid to reach out for support from your friends and family, or organisations like Cruse Bereavement Care."

The Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds is full of festive sparkle with the Christmas lights now on. Picture: SARAH...

Facing Christmas alone, or whilst grieving, can be a daunting prospect - Credit: Archant

Cruse has some practical ways to cope with the loss of a loved one over Christmas:

1. Consider different ways of celebrating

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One of the things that can help can be to spend some time trying to work out, well in advance, which arrangements will best suit your needs and the needs of others who share your loss.

Some bereaved people find that they do not wish to celebrate Christmas at all, whilst some find that simply maintaining their routine and celebrating as normal is the best tribute they can pay their loved one.

It may feel important to make a special effort to remember the person who has died. This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, or it may involve visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These can be things that we do alone, or with friends or family.

You may have photos or particular memories which you treasure; sharing these with others may be something that brings you together.

2. Accept that others may have different ways of mourning
We know that people remember and mourn in different ways. Conflict within a family can sometimes arise when we have expectations of how others should grieve, so try to be sensitive to others’ needs, and talk openly about what will be best for you.
 
3. Try to maintain a routine
The Christmas period may mean that your normal routine is disrupted, and this can make it easier to forget to look after yourself. Trying to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating are small things that can make a difference. Seeing friends or family, or volunteering for the day, can all help.

4. Go easy on the drink
It's tempting to drink more on festive occasions, and it can feel like a drink might help numb any difficult feelings. But it’s important to remember that using alcohol to escape the pain of loss provides only very temporary relief. If you find you're relying heavily on drinking alcohol, consider taking some drink-free days. You can also find advice from Drink Aware on how to reduce your alcohol consumption.

5. Remember the happy times
Even many years after someone dies Christmas can be a difficult, intensely emotional time when we need to look after ourselves and those around us. But as time passes, special occasions like Christmas can help us remember happy memories of good times shared in the past. 

6. Skip the Christmas films
It can be tough when you are bombarded by images of people enjoying happy family times. If it’s getting too much, consider taking a break from the Christmas TV and social media and maybe take a walk or get some fresh air in any way you can.

7. Talk to someone
If you're struggling to deal with the grieving process over Christmas, you can call the Cruse National Helpline on 0808 808 1677. See here for opening hours. Alternatively you can message a trained grief counsellor using the CruseChat service 9am - 9pm Monday to Friday.

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