I want to acknowledge that for many, the Christmas and holiday period may be a time of excitement and happiness, whilst for others it may be a time of great anxiety and sadness as they struggle with challenges in their families, or the reminder of someone who is missing. Whatever this time of the year means to you, it can be emotionally exhausting and so it can be useful to prepare some things to help you through.
- Give yourself permission to feel the emotions. It is ok to be feeling a range of emotions at this time. You might find it helpful to take some time out to remember your loved one or to reflect on the situation at hand. Some people find going to a special place, writing a letter, making a tree ornament to honour your baby or loved one, or buying a gift in remembrance and donate to a special charity or cause close to their heart to be helpful in getting through this season. Sometimes it can be helpful just to stop and let the emotions be. The key is to find some thing, or a few different things that works for you and your situation.
- It is ok to enjoy yourself. It can be hard to have fun when you are missing someone you love or facing significant difficulties in your life. It is not uncommon to have a whole lot of different feelings such as sadness, guilt, or excitement all mixed in. Getting together with family and close friends may be a chance to remember the good times and its ok to relax and have a laugh. Having fun is not necessarily a sign that you miss them any less, or have forgotten the issues at hand.
- Look after yourself. Remembering that this may be a tough time for you is important. This may mean that you have to treat yourself with a bit of care. Avoid making major decisions until after the holidays are over. If possible, treat yourself to something you enjoy doing, or going out with someone for some special time during this period.
- Avoid bottling stuff up. It can be tempting to put on the brave face and go to gatherings and pretend to be what you think people expect you to be. Keeping things to yourself may mean that the tension builds up inside you and you find yourself feeling more stressed and upset as a result. Finding a way to get out what you are feeling may help you to feel better. You may like to talk to someone, write your thoughts down, draw, have a cry or punch some pillows. Whatever works for you, find a strategy that you can call on so you can release some of the tension.
- Talk to someone. We often worry that we might burden others by mentioning our loss or challenges, particularly during this time of the year.
Sometimes though, by sharing the challenges we can find that others feel honored that you would trust them with your story, and perhaps feel permission to also share the challenges that they may be facing. You can raise the way you feel by acknowledging that you don’t want to ‘change the atmosphere’ or ‘bring the mood down’ but that you want to be honest with your feelings. Most will be receptive and supportive for you to discuss your emotions. Finding a way that you can bring up your feelings in a constructive way, and talking about how you are doing, may help those around you understand a little bit of what it is like for you and for you to feel less alone in this journey. If you don’t feel you can share this with your family or friends, and that you find yourself feeling stress or anxiety you might find talking with a professional helpful to develop strategies to get through this difficult time.
So, as you approach this Christmas, I hope that you will be surrounded by care and understanding, and may have a sense of peace for even just a moment to help you navigate through the time ahead.