How To Deal With 1st Christmas After The Death Of Loved One

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and happiness, but for many people, it's anything but. For those who have lost a loved one, Christmas can be an especially difficult time. 

Everywhere you look, you will be reminded of what you are missing, from TV to social media. Even a trip to the shops can prove challenging if you aren't feeling particularly festive. If you're struggling with grief this holiday season, here are some tips to help you get through it.

One of the most important things you can do is to allow yourself to grieve in whatever way feels right for you. Don't try to bottle up your emotions or pretend that everything is okay when it's not. If you need to cry, then cry. If you need to take some time out for yourself, then do so. Grief is a process and it will take time.

It's also important to talk about your loved one. Mentioning their name and sharing memories of them can be incredibly therapeutic. You might find it helpful to write down some of your favourite memories or start a memory jar where you write down something happy each day. Alternatively, you could make a photo album or memory box full of mementoes to help you to focus on something else. Let's explore how to manage grief at Christmas in more detail.

Why is the first Christmas the hardest?

One of the reasons that the first Christmas after a loss can be particularly tough is because it's often seen as a time for family. 

  • If you have lost a spouse, then you might find yourself feeling isolated and alone. Perhaps you tackled the Christmas to-do list together and you feel isolated now that it all hangs on your head.
  • If you have lost a child, then you might feel like you are missing out on all the fun and excitement that comes with Christmas. This can also raise some feelings of jealousy for all the people who can still celebrate with their children.
  • If you have lost a parent or grandparent, you might feel nostalgic for all of the Christmases you have enjoyed together and their role in making them special. 

Either way, it can be difficult to feel festive when your heart is heavy with sadness. There is seemingly no escape from the festivities, and you might be left with feelings of anger or guilt that you don’t want to participate.

How can I make it through?

There are a few things that you can do to help get you through this tough time. Firstly, try to focus on the positive memories that you have of your loved one. This could be anything from past Christmases to happy moments spent together. Remembering the good times will help to ease some of the pain you are feeling.

It's also important to lean on your support network. Whether this is friends, family, or a grief support group, talking to others who understand what you are going through can be really helpful. They will be able to offer practical and emotional support when you need it most.

Finally, try to do something for yourself during the holiday season. This could be something as simple as taking a long walk in nature or treating yourself to a relaxing massage. It's important to make time for yourself, even if you don't feel like it. By taking care of yourself, you will be in a better position to deal with anything that comes your way.

christmas decorations

How can I support someone who is grieving?

If you know someone who is struggling with grief this holiday season, there are a few things that you can do to support them. 

Firstly, let them know that you are there for them and that you are willing to listen if they need to talk. It's also important to be patient and understanding. Grief can be a long and complicated process, so try not to put any pressure on the person to "get over it" or "move on."

You might also want to offer practical help, such as running errands or cooking meals. This will take some of the pressure off the person who is grieving and allow them to focus on taking care of themselves. 

Finally, try to be sensitive when bringing up the topic of Christmas. Avoid asking questions that might be painful for the person to answer, such as "Are you excited for Christmas?" or "What are you doing for Christmas?" If they want to talk about their plans, they will bring it up in conversation.

What help is available?

Grief is not a linear process, so someone who has seemingly been improving may find that they are plunged back into the depths of depression once Christmas arrives. This is completely normal and not a sign that they are handling it any worse than anyone else. The first Christmas without a loved one will always be difficult.

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief at Christmas, help is available. You could speak to a therapist about your grief to help identify healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. You could also find a support group to share your thoughts and emotions with. 

And finally, there are charities like The Samaritans that offer support phone lines to give you a place to air your grief. If you feel like you need a little extra support and have exhausted your friendship circle, then reaching out to someone trained to listen could be exactly what you need.

Closing thoughts

Christmas can be a difficult time for anyone who has lost a loved one. By following these tips, you will be in a better position to get through it. Lean on your support network, focus on the positive memories, and take care of yourself. With time and patience, the pain will start to ease and you will be able to enjoy the holiday season again.