How to manage your grief during the Christmas season

How to manage your grief during the Christmas season

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The winter months can be a really difficult time for some young grieving people. Shorter days, longer nights, darkness, lots of ‘happiness’ circulating on social media… Just bear in mind that not everything you see online is a real depiction of what’s going on in people’s lives. If you’d like to read top tips from the Winston’s Wish grief support practitioners on how to manage your grief and emotions at Christmas, you’ve come to the right place! You may find these tips useful in the future if not right now, so consider saving this webpage or sharing it with someone you know who might need to read this right now.

Try not to compare your life to other people on social media.

This is so important! Social media is not a true reflection of what’s happening in people’s lives. Filters, posed smiles, and seemingly ‘happy’ times may be their way of trying to carry on as normal. Just as you should try not to compare your life to theirs, also remember that they are potentially just putting on a brave face and getting through whatever is going on in their personal lives too. If it’s helpful for you, avoid social media during the Christmas and New Year period and opt for a film instead!

Make plans if you want to, but don’t be afraid to change all of them last minute. Just do what you can and feel able to, there are no rules.

We know sometimes it might feel like you’re letting people down if you change or cancel your plans, but you are allowed to put your grief and mental health first. Your friends and family will understand if you talk to them and explain what’s going on. You could try to rearrange instead of cancelling the plans if you feel able to, this will give you a chance to prepare for a new date or event.

What about creating a new festive tradition?

You could add an extra course or dish of your loved one’s favourite food. Or maybe it’s writing down memories and thoughts, popping them in a jar, and adding to them each year. Maybe spending quiet time around a lit candle with your thoughts. Anything you feel appropriate and symbolic to you and your household.

You might find it triggering to carry on doing things the way they were done before your person died. Some people find it easier to continue as things were and make few changes, however you may find this causes you more upset and you’d like to actively suggest changes to your friends, family or whoever you’re spending time with this festive season.

Remember it is okay to feel moments of joy amongst the sadness. Please don’t feel guilty.

Having those mixed emotions is completely natural. Emotions don’t exist one by one or have any set way that they show up in our lives. Feeling a glimpse of happiness doesn’t mean you’re no longer sad, frustrated or angry in your grief. A moment of joy also doesn’t mean you miss or love your person any less. It can feel strange at first, but just know that the emotions you’re feeling are all valid and they can co-exist alongside one another.

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Look after yourself and take time out – others will understand.

You may feel exhausted and overwhelmed after the anticipation of the Christmas season, so do try to look after yourself. Schedule in time for something you find relaxing – a long walk, a hot bath, a cup of tea, blasting out some music, cuddling a pet. You know how important self-care is, and these are just some suggestions for how you can look after yourself.

One more simple thing you could do on a grief-y day is think of three good things that have happened to you in the last few days: ‘I went for a crisp walk outside and could see my breath in the air’, ‘I ate something tasty for dinner’, ‘I completed a TV series and distracted myself for a short while’. Your three good things can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but it might be a nice way to ground your thoughts and strip back all the fanciful things we often think we ‘need’ to have a good time.

Try to make sure you have support around you, whether it is family, friends, your spirituality, or Helpline numbers.

Christmas can feel like such a lonely time for some people, there’s no shame in needing someone to talk to, so try to make that step and address your emotions.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people might sound obvious to you, but what we mean is that those people don’t have to be the people in your household. Family, friends, group leaders, neighbours… If you would like someone to listen to you or just sit with you, try talking to someone you can trust.

If no one is around or talking to someone feels too much right now, start a journal or write notes in your phone. You can kick it off by making a note of the three good things that have happened recently, these might become a little pick-me-up when you start to notice how much the small things mean to you.

Managing your grief during Christmas

If you take one thing away from these tips, please remember that you’re not alone in the way you’re feeling this season and all those feelings are valid. Lots of people will be having a not-so-wonderful time, but they may be pretending everything’s fine online… Step back from comparison, and try to focus on your self-care, three good things, and remind yourself that you CAN manage your grief, even on those days when it’s all consuming.

Get help

Winston’s Wish are here to help! We offer one-to-one and group grief support sessions. We also have lots of online resources and a Helpline, email and live chat service where you can talk to bereavement professionals. You can call us on 08088 020 021 (open 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday), email ask@winstonswish.org or use our live chat (open 3-8pm, Monday to Friday) and find out more on our Get Support page.

Over the Christmas period, our Helpline and email is open as normal until 8pm on Friday 23rd January (live chat is closed on 22nd and 23rd December), normal opening hours on 29th and 30th December, and reopening as normal from Tuesday 3rd January. We are closed 24th-28th December and 31st December – 2nd January.

If you need urgent support in a crisis, you can contact the 24/7 Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger by texting WW to 85258.