Coping with Loss During the Christmas Season
Waipuna Hospice Counsellor Karen Schilperoort gives guidance on how to get through Christmas, an often difficult season for those who have lost a loved one.
As the Christmas holidays approach, anticipating special occasions can be particularly difficult for families grieving a loss. Families can find meaningful ways to connect with their loved ones over the holidays and continue their bond in new and different ways. Continuing bonds refers to your person always being a part of your life. When a loved one dies, our relationship with them doesn’t. Your loved one is still your loved one. They mean the same to you now as they did before they died. By accepting this fundamental truth, you empower yourself to find new ways to keep them in your life.
This year, plan a Christmas that feels comfortable for you and your family and remember that how you feel from one day to the next may change so take each day as it comes. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, allow yourself to be authentically you, check in with how you are, and try not to overdo things.
Here are some ways you can navigate the festive season while grieving:
- Plan ahead. Acknowledge that Christmas will now be different and while you may choose to keep some traditions, others might have to be changed or dropped altogether. Ask yourself which traditions are important to you, and what you can reasonably cope with this year. Have a couple of plans that give you options on the day and over the Christmas period.
- Think about what is meaningful and realistic for you and discuss this with your family. Talk to family or friends and let them know if you are comfortable talking about the person who died or if you would prefer not to mention their name. People may assume you don’t want to be doing either. Accept both practical and emotional help.
- Be gentle with yourself. Perhaps lower your expectations and only do as much as you feel able. Remind yourself the grief journey takes its own time, and most people experience days when they’re coping, and other days when they get hit by a grief wave. If you are with others, allow timeout for yourself. If you are alone, stay in contact with family and friends.
- Consider acts of remembrance, such as lighting a candle, talking or writing to them as if they are here, treasuring photos, or doing special shared activities with those who support you.
- Plan some quiet time for yourself. Grieving is tiring and energy-sapping. Have a nap or take a short walk. If you accept invitations, change your mind, or leave early if you need to.
- If you’re concerned about your friend or relative’s grief over the festive season, talk to them about it and take cues. Many people won’t use the name of the person, while some like to speak about their loved one.
Waipuna Hospice counsellors compassionately listen to worries and fears, providing care plans for specific needs, saying goodbye and bereavement care. We offer a weekly drop-in bereavement group and a bi-monthly Navigating Grief Seminar for our families, and our Child and Family Therapist runs a coffee group for parents who’ve lost a partner. Our counsellors are available to Waipuna Hospice patients and their families, Monday – Friday, excluding public holidays. Alternatively, you can free-call or text 1737 at any time. 1737 is a free service for anyone who needs to talk to a counsellor (please note, 1737 is not a Waipuna Hospice service, it is a national telehealth service).