9 November 2017
Coping With Loss and Grief Over the Festive Season – By Interchange Australia Consultant, Anne-Marie Kennedy
The tradition of families coming together during the holiday season can heighten the absence of a loved one. Trying to remain upbeat for the benefit of others can be draining and people need to recognise when they need time to themselves.
The festive season is nearly upon us and with that a period that can be extremely enjoyable for some and extremely difficult for others. The perceived pressure to be happy all the time can be too much for some people especially if they have experienced grief and loss whether recent or many years ago.
At times like Christmas, people who have lost someone may feel a great sense of emptiness. People experience bereavement differently and it may trigger a range of different emotions, including anxiety, yearning, regret or anger. People who had not experienced grief may find it difficult to deal with the emotions of those who have.
Palliative Care Australia developed the following list of Top Tips for people who are bereaved (and their loved ones) on how to manage grief during the festive season include the following:
1. Acknowledge – remember those you have lost
Talk about them, share memories, play a special song, light a candle, have their favourite drink and make a toast. Do something in memory of your loved one or continue a tradition you have once had with them.
2. Listen – to yourself and take some time for yourself
Each person feels grief differently. If you need to be alone, take time off and be alone. If you want to be with friends, try to surround yourself with friends. Do whatever it is that you feel you need to be doing that time.
3. Accept – the holiday season can be a time of mixed emotions
Managing grief while the people around you are celebrating the season can be a real challenge. Accept that your grief is normal and reasonable and be cautious about being hard on yourself for feeling down, if you do. Allow yourself to feel guilt, anger, regret, sadness, but also joy and happiness. Only attend events where you feel comfortable. If you feel it is too difficult to join in on the day, do not force yourself – it is ok to say no and excuse yourself.
4. Talk – Start the conversation
Your friends and family might not know how to talk to you about your loss. Take the first step to initiate the conversation about how you feel or talk about the person who has died so they know it is ok to raise the subject with you.
5. Recognise – Grief changes your world view
When someone close to us dies it changes the way we look at and think about the world. Recognise that and acknowledge that you are trying to construct a new world view without that person’s physical presence in your life.
6. Remember the positive
Remembering the positive memories of the loved one can be a good way to honour their life and memory. Grief can be overwhelming so balancing the pain and loss with positive memories can bring solace. Your good memories of someone can give your strength at this difficult time.
7. Seek help – if your feelings impact on your ability to carry out daily activities
If you find that your grief impedes your capacity to perform routine daily functions, you may want to consult a health professional.
In summary be true to yourself and others. Take time out when and if needed from the festivities. Remember the festive season will pass.