Christmas can be a really difficult time, full of mixed emotions and confusion about how we can or should remember loved ones; how we keep their memory burning brightly.
The focus of Christmas is often on family, children and having fun, but that can be especially hard when you are missing someone you love. It can make the gap left behind seem even bigger.
It’s important to recognise that it doesn’t matter how recent or how long ago a loved one died. It is normal to miss them. Christmas can be a time of year when feelings of loss are heightened. But there are ways that we can incorporate remembrance into our lives at Christmas time.
It can feel like a big pressure to be happy, to join in with laughter and fun, because of this we can sometimes ignore feelings of sadness, emptiness or anger. Perhaps we don’t want to burden others with how we are feeling or we don’t want to be seen to be a party pooper or bringing the mood down.
The trouble with this is that it can leave us lonely and isolated. It can also generate feelings of guilt. Guilty for having joined in and not remembered in the way that we wanted to.
For me, Christmas Day in particular is very tough for me. But I’ve learnt over the years that actually, I feel more comfortable remembering those special too me who are not here. Rather than ignoring what’s going on and hoping it will go away! I choose to remember loved ones at different points over the Christmas period.
Here are some ways you might think about keeping your memories of loved ones burning bright this Christmas.
Hang a special bauble on the tree
This could be something that you have made with their name on it, something that you’ve bought that makes you think of your loved one or a favourite photo of them in a photo bauble.
Light a candle
You might light this alone, with friends or family. You could say a prayer or a poem as you light the candle or just take a moment to remember. Whatever feels right for you in the moment.
You don’t have to light a real candle if you don’t want to, you could light a virtual candle on your social media page.
the good times and the funny moments
This might make you really belly laugh or shed a tear, either way is OK, go with what feels OK for you.
If it feels too raw, too soon, or you don’t feel able to talk too much just yet, you could think about writing a letter or a Christmas card to your loved one. You can still express the good times you shared but in a more private way.
Pause for a moment
It’s so easy to get swept along with Christmas preparations and sometimes what we really need to do is stop, breathe, take stock and sit for a while.
It’s a good idea to try to do this regularly over the festive period, even if just for a minute or two at a time. It can be a really good way of stopping our feelings becoming too overwhelming to the point where they knock us of our feet a little.
Make a donation …
in their name
This could be to a charity who cared for your loved one, for example a hospice or an organisation who fund research into a particular health condition, for example.
However, you choose the charity is up to you. Equally, whatever you choose to donate is up to you too – it doesn’t have to be money, it could be that you donate some of your time and expertise.
Allow new traditions to grow
Honour old traditions or create new ones
There may be certain rituals or traditions that existed in the past that may feel important or comforting to continue. If this is how it is for you then continue.
Or, you could create some new traditions that help you remember a loved one. Perhaps you could cook their favourite meal, watch their favourite film or play their favourite board game.
All too much?
If Christmas without your loved one is causing you to feel anxious, read my recent blog with lots of practical ideas of how you can overcome anxiety after a bereavement.
Please try to remember
That whilst Christmas can be a difficult and painful time of the year, it is OK to laugh and be a part of the festivities too. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Acknowledge how you are feeling, whether it’s high or low, but don’t be frightened of it. It is OK to be where you are right now.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. In the same way, there is not right or wrong way to keep our loved one’s memory burning brightly at Christmas. There is simply your own way.
I hope the ideas I have shared here help you to remember your loved ones this Christmas.
But, if you are fed up with wrestling with your grief, feel stuck in a sad, lonely or angry place, or simply don’t recognise yourself, you are not alone, talking to a counsellor can really help.
I work with people just like you, so don’t struggle on your own, get in touch with me on 07305 621885 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading
About the Author: Sarah is a qualified Counsellor, based near Chorley, Lancashire. She works with adults, couples and young people (aged 10+) who want to gain clarity, find new direction, recognise themselves again and be less haunted by painful emotions. Sarah has a particular interest in working with people who have experienced life changes (such as redundancy, retirement or divorce), loss or bereavement.