The holiday season is often a time of joy and celebration, but it can also be a period of profound sadness and reflection, especially for those experiencing it for the first time without a beloved parent(s). If you’re grappling with this loss, know that you’re not alone in this journey. This article aims to offer support, understanding, and practical tips to help you navigate this challenging time.
Understanding Grief During the Holidays
The loss of a parent(s) is a significant life event, and it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions, especially during significant occasions like Christmas, especially with the empty chair(s) at the dining table. More so with the emotional nostalgia that comes with Christmas due its family-centric nature of the celebration. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and understand that grieving is a highly individual process. There’s no right or wrong way to feel; it’s absolutely ok, to not be ok.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for the timetable of grieving and healing — and no single piece of advice that works for everyone. Some might find comfort in the company of other people, whether that means attending a festive open house or hosting a small dinner at home. Others might need more time alone for self-care or a Netflix marathon. It’s ok to recognise that your needs might change and evolve.
Technically, this is my second Christmas without Pops; he passed suddenly last year the day before Christmas Eve, I was so shocked and numb to my very core that I don’t really remember much of last Christmas, so this very much feels like the first. This year will also be the first year without Mr RB’s parents, who were the epitome of Christmas itself.
If you’re like me and feeling the heavy bump of reality rather than the fantasy Christmas you see on TV, then this is just for you.
Tip 1: Have a plan
Make a plan of the events and activities that you would like to take part in or attend. Give yourself the opportunity to:
- Plan what you’ll say if you need to remove yourself from a situation.
- Bring a friend or family member who can offer emotional support.
- Preparing a response for when people ask about your parent.
- Be ok with leaving g an event early if you feel overwhelmed.
- Look after your own spiritual needs.
Tip 2: Honouring Their Memory
One way to cope with grief during Christmas is to find ways to honour the memory of your parent. This could be through:
- Sharing favourite stories about them.
- Continuing a tradition they loved.
- Creating a new tradition in their honour.
Tip 3: Self-Care and Boundaries
Taking care of yourself is crucial during this time. This includes:
- Allowing yourself time to rest and reflect.
- Setting boundaries around holiday events (it’s okay to say no).
- Being clear on how you’d like to spend your time.
- Engaging in activities that bring you peace and comfort.
- Look after you; It can be tempting to drink more during the festive period and it can feel like a drink may help numb the pain. But it’s important to remember that using alcohol or recreational drugs only provides temporary relief.
- Take a break from all the Christmas films and happy images of people celebrating.
- Consider taking a break from social media this holiday.
- Spend time outside in nature – allow yourself the opportunity to reflect on your loss, but also to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Tip 4: Seeking Support
Remember, it’s okay to seek support. This can be from:
- Friends and family who understand your situation.
- Professional counselling or support groups.
- Online forums or communities for people who have experienced similar losses.
Tip 5: Creating New Traditions
While it’s important to honour past traditions, creating new ones can also be healing and bring you joy. This could be:
- Volunteering for a cause meaningful to you or your parent(s).
- Planning a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit.
- Starting a creative project like a photo album or memory book.
It’s important to manage your expectations during the holidays. Remember:
- It’s okay if this Christmas doesn’t feel “perfect” or like previous years.
- To be honest with others about how you are feeling.
- Give yourself permission to experience joy alongside sadness.
- Focus on what feels meaningful to you, not what you think you should do.
Experiencing your first Christmas without a parent is undoubtedly challenging. Still, through honouring their memory, taking care of yourself, seeking support, and possibly creating new traditions, you can navigate this holiday season in a way that’s right for you. Remember, there’s no set timeline for grief, and it’s okay to have moments of happiness and sadness. You’re not alone in this journey.
A bit about me & my background
Claire is a Health, Wellbeing and Rehabilitation Specialist at Restoring Balance; a Sports Scientist and a Women’s Health Coach who is also a multi-disciplined therapist specialising in person-centred care. Claire is also a carer, juggling her time between her clinic and looking after her Mum.
Claire’s work is very different to many therapists – working with you as a whole person using a unique combination of mind, nutrition and movement to overcome both physical and emotional blocks; not just where you feel pain or have dysfunction, allowing you to live life again. Claire can help you with:
- Increasing your resilience
- Space and time for you to decompress
- Making space for you in your busy mid-life
- Developing your personal and emotional boundaries
- Helping you prepare for those tough conversations
- Improving your emotional health
- Increasing mobility, balance, stability, co-ordination
- Post-operative rehabilitation and scar care
- Understanding the changes your body has been through
- Post-operative rehabilitation
- Increasing mobility, balance, stability, co-ordination
- Calming your stress & anxiety
- Improving your digestive health
- Relieving pain
I work both online and in person from my home-based clinic on Hayling Island, Hampshire.
Ataloss: searchable support database
Childhood Bereavement Network: childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk
TCF – Compassionate Friends: tcf.org.uk
Cruse Bereavement Care: https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-support/
Grief Encounter: griefencounter.org.uk
WAY (Widowed & Young): widowedandyoung.org.uk
Way Up: www.way-up.co.uk