Christmas is a magical time of the year, people are jolly, there’s parties every weekend and everything looks so pretty! This is great if things in life are going well for you but, if you’re widowed and grieving the loss of a life partner, it can feel like the most awful time of the year. So, I thought I’d write a few little ideas to help you make this season feel a little more manageable after losing a loved one.
Christmas after losing a loved one feels daunting. You have no energy or enthusiasm, and the fact that everyone else appears to be having the time of their lives makes you feel so alone, envious and generally pretty rubbish.
However, the first piece of advice I would give is to stop comparing. Of course, on the surface it may seem like everyone is having the most romantic, magical Christmas ever. The photos on social media are filled with smiling faces and pretty lights, couples are walking around holding hands and the world feels full of love, hope and happiness. However, most of the time this is not the case.
A lot of people really struggle during the Christmas season – for reasons of their own. So, don’t assume from a seeing a very small part of someone's life that they have it all. – They too could be going through tough times.
Although it’s hard to accept things are going to be very different now. As much as you want things to stay the way they always were at this time of year, this can’t always be the case. So, it’s important to take an active part in shaping this change as much as possible.
Think about how you’d like to spend Christmas, which traditions you’d like to keep and which you’d like to change. Maybe create a new one in memory of your loved one.
What’s Your Grief have put together this great guide for approaching new holiday traditions.
However, whatever you choose to do this Christmas, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate old traditions, test new ones, and find what works for you.
I cannot stress this enough when it comes to surviving Christmas after losing a loved one. For your own sanity and happiness, be honest. Tell people if you don’t want to do something. I promise they will understand. And if you don’t know what you want to do, be honest about this too.
If you’ve been invited to another holiday party and you’re not sure if you’re ready, be open about this. You can always say you’ll give it a go, but explain you won’t stay long. Driving to holiday events can give you a good excuse to leave early if you need to.
Sometimes pushing yourself a bit can be good for you. But only you know what feels right.
When I lost my husband, the thought of writing all my Christmas cards without being able to write his name made me feel sick. So, if you’re in the same boat, don’t feel you have to send cards.
It can be a nice alternative to tell people you’ve made a donation to a charity in memory of your loved one instead of sending cards this year.
The holidays can be so hectic and busy – which can be hard to deal with even when you’re feeling at your best. So, this year it’s especially important to make sure you allow yourself time for you.
Take plenty of time to rest, time to grieve and time to remember. Get away from the crowds and go for a walk. Get a massage, or just sit quietly at home and make something that helps you remember your loved one. – Maybe make a memory box or a memory jar.
Doing something like this can be really cathartic and it gives you something tangible to help you feel connected to your loved one.
Do yourself a favour and refuse to get stressed about Christmas shopping this year. You shouldn’t feel under pressure to rush to the shops and get on with Christmas shopping as normal – because this is only going to overload you.
Don’t be afraid to use the internet, buy gift vouchers or even gift your time. Offer to take your friend out for lunch in January, or take your mum to the theatre. They will love the fact they get to spend some time with you, and it will give you something to plan for in the new year.
Of course, this season is going to be hard after losing a loved one. But you shouldn’t be afraid of your feelings, and you should never feel guilty.
During this time, do whatever it is you need to do – and if that means spending a day crying in your PJ’s then so be it. But, If you end up having a great day one day, or a fab night out with friends then that’s ok too, don’t feel guilty about it. Your loved one would want to see you having a nice time!
It can be tempting to want to avoid people altogether this season. However, often spending time with others can be such comfort – even if we don’t expect it to be.
You could reach out to others who may also be grieving, and find a support group or maybe a local charity for the bereaved. Although we all have different ways of dealing with grief there is some comfort in being with those who just ‘get it’.
You should also never be afraid or shamed to accept people’s offers of help. Let them get the presents, do the wrapping and have you over for food. As much as you’ll want to hide from the world, human connection is so important and it will lift you a little. Those hugs are essential to your healing.
Although Christmas is the season of indulgence, you should avoid over doing it on the food and drink.
The comfort we seek from indulging in festive treats and too much alcohol will not do you any favours. You will feel sluggish, tired and hungover and this will only make you feel worse.
I’m not saying don’t treat yourself, but make sure you eat nourishing food, drink plenty of water and move a little. This will help you sleep a little better, have a positive effect on your overall mood and help you to feel like you are in control of something.
I know when I lost my husband, social media at Christmas drove me crazy. I couldn’t stand looking at everybody’s beautiful holiday pictures with happy families.
However, don’t feel guilty about needing to take yourself off social media if it’s all too much. This can feel liberating and you’ll feel a lot less angry about other people’s ‘perfect’ lives when yours feels like it’s ended.
I know this sounds ridiculous and you’re going to want to say ‘there’s nothing to be grateful for after losing a loved one.’ But really try to think about it and you will find something.
It may be as simple as having a cup of tea with a friend or it may be a cuddle from one of your children. But finding something to be grateful for in a time of such sadness can be really beneficial to your mindset.
Finally, remember that anything you decide to do or not do does not in any way diminish your love for your loved one. Do what you need to do for you and your children (if you have them.) Trust your instincts and don’t worry about what you think you ‘should’ be doing. There is no should!
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. I know these strategies really helped me survive the holidays after losing my husband. However, if you need any more help or support this Christmas, please get in contact with me via email, [email protected].
As the UK's first Widow Coach, I help people to move forward, to achieve the lives they deserve. I’ve been where you are now, and together, we can work through the pain to create a life that’s truly beautiful.
Listen to my podcast episode on surviving special days and holidays here.