As Christmas approaches 🎄, we know this can be such a challenging time. Celebrating holidays without the person you love is often confronting, and we want to talk through some of the ways you can help support yourself and your grieving loved ones during this time.
The Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But it’s important to note that everyone’s grief is unique – we may experience these in an entirely different order, and not everyone experiences all five stages.
“She can’t really be gone – she’ll be back any second.”
When we’re overwhelmed with different emotions associated with grief, it’s logical to shutdown – we can’t process everything at once! It’s common to deny our feelings or an event. Denial gives us more time to process. But it doesn’t remove the underlying emotional journey that needs to occur.
“If this had happened, this would never have happened!”
Anger does a good job of hiding the pain and other emotions we experience. We might take aim at those nearby, or even the person who has passed. Even if it isn’t rational, many of us can get stuck in the anger phase.
“If only I’d said something earlier, they wouldn’t be gone.”
When we experience grief, we often feel helpless or vulnerable. Bargaining is the phase where we are looking to regain control – where we might convince ourselves that we can change the outcome of events, by making a lot of “what if” or “if only” statements. This is another way of postponing the sadness we feel.
“How do I possibly move forward from here?”
In contrast with anger, this phase might seem very withdrawn and quiet. In this stage, we’re starting to really feel our sadness and may be working through the feelings. We might be tempted to withdraw from others, and it can feel heavy and confusing.
“I had so many wonderful memories with them. We were lucky to have those times together.”
While this is the final stage, it doesn’t always mean we’ve moved on. It’s more like we’ve accepted that grief is there and have started to understand what it means in our life. It can feel like something has shifted or changed.
Supporting Yourself and Loved Ones
Once we’ve come to understand where we are with our grief, there are many things we can do to help move towards acceptance and deal with our grief. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Start a conversation 🗣
During a time of grieving, it can be a real comfort to start some open conversations with other loved ones or people who are close to us, especially if they also knew the person who has passed.
Turn to your friends and family 👪 and give yourself an opportunity to remember your loved one who has passed. Try not to withdraw from your connections – lean in and accept the help that’s offered. You might take comfort from your faith or join a specific support group to help. Whether it’s practical matters of a recent passing or just a shoulder to cry on, don’t feel you have to do it all by yourself and process everything alone.
2. Keep busy 🐝
While it’s not healthy to numb your feelings or ignore them forever, the holiday season is a busy time and it can be helpful to inject your energy into making it the best possible time you can. Think of how the person who has passed would have wanted you to celebrate. Pay tribute to their memory and keep busy to give yourself the chance to process through action.
3. Take care of yourself 💪
If you’re feeling in a low mood or really going through it emotionally, it can be easy to let your health and wellness slide. Maintain a positive routine – continue with the daily things that you do that help keep you healthy.
Combat any stress or fatigue you feel with enough sleep 😴, nutritious food and exercise. Sleep can be tough, so take naps when you need them. Remember, the mind and body are linked, and with good physical health you’ll be better placed to cope emotionally.
4. Express yourself creatively 👩🎨
Work through your emotions using your creativity. You might write about your emotions in a journal, giving yourself a judgment-free zone to process. You might write your lost loved one a letter, saying everything you didn’t have a chance to say to them. You might take your mind off things with a new hobby or trying something new – like painting 🎨, drawing or music 🎻. Expressing yourself can help work through the emotions and bring a little bit of joy back into life.
5. Ask for extra help 💁♀️
Our stress and anxiety specialist Lorna is here to help if you’re looking for support or not coping. Have a chat and start building up tools to help you through this rough period. Lorna can point you in the direction of resources to support your grieving journey. The Samaritans and Mind Charities can also help support you and your loved ones at this time.
Remember, it’s okay to go through anger, or to cry, but it’s also okay to find moments of joy and laughter. Celebrate the present moment with your loved ones. Take care of yourself and give yourself the space and time to grieve.