Stress and Grief at Christmas

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Stress and Grief at Christmassea-and-sky
Christmas can be a time of peace and joy for some but for many it can be a time of disappointment, stress and great sorrow. Here are some survival suggestions for stress:
Christmas can be a time of disappointment if our expectations are too high or if we want everything to be perfect but find that things go wrong. It’s a good idea to let go of the idea of a ‘perfect’ Christmas. Try to relax and enjoy the preparations; then see how Christmas unfolds. Remember you are not responsible for other people’s happiness. If you are having guests for Christmas, or you are cooking Christmas dinner, encourage others to help you. If your family are unable or unwilling to help, lower your standards and make everything simpler; perhaps have fewer trimmings. You can meet any complaints with a calm but clear explanation!
Christmas is a notorious time for family arguments and for this reason can be a major cause of stress. You may wish to ask yourself why you spend Christmas with people who ruin the festivities for others. Perhaps you may consider organising your Christmas differently this year.
Grief
People who’ve experienced the death of a loved one can dread Christmas; the empty chair at the table, the missing presents under the tree. Every anniversary is painful and, for some, especially the first Christmas. Everything about Christmas can serve as a painful reminder of your loss; from decorating the tree to giving and receiving the cards. It can feel like a very lonely time. Allow yourself to feel the grief and to cry when you feel sad; no matter how long ago your loved one died.
There’s no time limit for grief, even though misguided family and friends (or your own inner voice) may say ‘it’s time you got over it’. Christmas is full of booby traps that can take your grief by surprise, so try to reflect on your Christmas traditions in advance and how you may feel. You may decide to do some things differently. Some people find the approach of Christmas worse than the day itself; Christmas day will come and go so try to hang on in there.
Look after yourself this Christmas and allow yourself space to grieve if you are going to be with family and friends. Withdraw to your room if you feel the need to be alone for a while and give yourself permission to cry or to feel angry. If you find yourself able to join in with the festivities, and perhaps laugh and enjoy yourself, don’t feel guilty; equally don’t feel pressurised by the expectations of others to fake jollity.
If you are grieving and dreading spending Christmas alone, you may consider doing some volunteer work and perhaps signing up with an organisation that’s looking for help. There will be plenty of volunteering information available online.

Do Whatever You Have to Do to Survive
The death of someone close completely changes our world. Death is final and often it’s sudden and unexpected. We are plunged into the reality of having to face the rest of our lives without someone precious. We feel terrified and overwhelmed at the prospect of living without them. Grief is a process; we go through stages of disbelief, extreme sorrow and physical pain. We experience anger, guilt and depression. We suffer the anguish of longing to have that special person back in our lives. As if that is not enough, we have to deal with other peoples’ reaction to our bereavement. People often want to help but don’t know what to say or how to respond. Sometimes they avoid us, just adding to our loneliness and despair. Allow yourself to go through the grieving process. Try to find someone who’s a good listener to talk to. Cruse Bereavement Care is fantastic, as are other bereavement care organisations. Let grief take its course; there’s no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to do it. Life will never be the same again, it’s true, but eventually you will find the inner strength to live life differently. The initial anguish will gradually pass and you will begin to enjoy life again. This Christmas, put yourself first and do whatever you feel you need to do to survive.

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