Coping With Grief At Christmas

Christmas is a time for family, friends and loved ones. But for those who have lost someone special, it can be a very difficult and emotional time. There's no shortage of reminders of what you are missing, and seeing everyone else enjoying themselves can be incredibly isolating. If you're grieving this holiday season, here are some tips to help you cope.

Why is grief harder at Christmas?

For many people, Christmas is a time of joy and happiness. But for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can be a very difficult and emotionally charged time. There are a number of reasons why grief can be harder at Christmas.

First, there's the sheer amount of holiday cheer that can be overwhelming. Everywhere you look there is a reminder that it is a joyful and happy time of year, but not for everyone. Secondly, you might have fond memories of Christmas with your loved ones, which can make it difficult to face it without them.

There is also the practical side of things. The cold weather and dark evenings make it difficult to get outside and do all of the things that are good for your mental health. If you suffer from seasonal depression, you may feel worse in the winter months, even without the addition of grief. So, how do you cope with this? Here are some of the best ways to manage grief at Christmas.

1. Acknowledge your sadness

It's OK to feel sad, angry or even numb during the holiday season. Grief can be very overwhelming, and you may not feel like getting into the festive spirit. Don't try to push your feelings away – acknowledge them and give yourself time to process them. If you feel better around other people, then seek out comfort and support in others. But if being around others makes your grief worse, don't be afraid to take a step back from the festivities.

2. Spend time with supportive people

Spend time with friends or family members who understand what you're going through. This can be people who know the person you are missing or someone who is dealing with their own grief. There is strength in numbers when it comes to handling your grief. If you haven't already, you could try joining a grief support group. This will allow you to enjoy some of the festivities in a group that understands what you are going through.

3. Do something to honour your loved one

Find a way to honour the memory of your loved one this holiday season. This could be something as simple as lighting a candle in their memory or sharing stories and memories with others. If you're struggling to be around people, you could write down your thoughts and feelings or create a photo album. You could also make a donation to a charity in their name or take on a challenge. If it's a physical challenge, you'll also enjoy all of the benefits of staying active.

4. Take care of yourself

This is a difficult time of year, so make sure you take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Eat healthy meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can worsen your grief. Taking care of your physical health is the best way to take care of your mental health. While the dark evenings and cold weather might make it more difficult to exercise regularly, try taking up a new sport like swimming or going to the gym.


5. Stay off social media

Social media can be a minefield during the holidays. Everyone is sharing happy photos and memories, which can be difficult to see when you're grieving. It's important to remember that people only share the positive aspects of their lives on social media, so don't compare your life to what you see online. If seeing all of the holiday cheer is too much, don't be afraid to switch off and take a break. This will also help you to avoid "memory" prompts on Facebook which can be very distressing.

6. Seek professional help

If your grief is proving to be too much to handle, don't hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist can provide you with the support and tools you need to deal with your grief. Often, just talking about your feelings can be a huge relief. Therapists can also help you develop healthy coping mechanisms and identify your triggers. 

Grief is a difficult emotion to deal with at any time, but it can be especially hard during the holiday season. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so do whatever feels right for you. Seek out support from others if you need it and take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. If your grief is proving too much to handle, seek professional help.