Christmas can be a time of joy, but the loss of a loved one can make Christmas a time of sadness and stress.
Whether bereaved recently or many years ago, memories of Christmas past aren't far away, and can bring sadness.
It's normal, it's understandable.
What's the best way to deal with it?
Christmas is deemed to be a time of joy, and therefore it’s quite common to try to ignore feelings of sadness as we don’t want to upset others and bring down the mood.
Hidden tears and secret pain is not uncommon at Christmas. After all, does a 'perfect' Christmas include sadness and tears?
It's unrealistic to expect Christmas to go by without some difficult emotions.
People have died, relationships have ended, family members that, for a myriad of reasons, can't be with you. That's tough.
I'd prefer to remember my loved ones at Christmas than not allow them into my day.
Showing that a loved one is gone but not forgotten can bring about a sense of peace, and planning a little commemoration can give great comfort to those bereaved.
Such as raise a glass and toast the missing person, celebrate their memory.
Make space in your day for Christmas remembrance
Maybe light a candle, look at photos and reminisce. Raise a glass and celebrate the time you had with that person, the funny stories and the good times you shared, and if that means you shed a tear then so be it, it’s far more healthy – and respectful – to acknowledge the sadness you feel at not having them with you than trying to soldier on, ignoring the elephant in the room.
Sometimes there are certain Christmas decorations which have meaning – the fairy on the tree, for example, may have been in the family for years and could be used as a way of remembering, possibly with a small ceremony around placing it. Or you may wish to change traditions which are too difficult and start your own.
That's understandable, but let's look at this a little closer. What are we doing when we remember loved ones in this way?
Well, we demonstrate that it's okay to be sad, that it's okay to cry. They learn through experience that emotions are normal, and that they pass. They will also learn compassion.
They learn it's okay to talk about those that have died.
I've been a counsellor since 2005 and I've had numerous occasions where adult clients are still confused about the circumstances of someones death, as once the person died it became taboo to mention them.
Surely it's far more healthy to let children see that sadness is normal, and that dying doesn't mean you disappear from peoples lives, they are remembered and loved and there's a place for them within the family.
Therefore, you can see that it's not only okay for kids to be part of remembrance, it's a positive and beneficial thing for them to experience.
After your Christmas remembrance, carry on with Christmas.
Sadness at Christmas is difficult, but normal. Acknowledge it, and don’t be frightened of it. As with all emotions, it will pass.
If you need some help managing your emotions this Christmas, don't struggle on alone, contact me.
Jane Travis is a qualified and experienced counsellor and clinical supervisor in the Lincoln area. She has been working at Reflections Counselling Lincoln since 2005. She also helps other counsellors and therapists market and grow their private practices at JaneTravis.co.uk.