Tips for surviving Christmas after lossDec 06, 2019
Christmas Day 2014 was Alice’s first month’s anniversary. So not only was it her first month anniversary, it was Christmas Day too. Despite Dave and close family really trying to support me through it, it honestly was a really awful day. We had just had two weeks in Thailand, a pure escape, a time to recoup and take in what had happened and a time where we learnt to smile again. On the boat leaving Ko Chang on the way back to the airport we saw lots of families on a packed ferry coming to the island as we were leaving. We said at the time how jealous we were of those people and how we wished we were staying. I really do wish we’d stayed!!
Looking back at the day itself everyone was so kind and supportive and tried to take our minds off it. For a large part of the day I wished I could sneak upstairs to bed with a bottle of gin and a movie. I struggled to talk about it because I knew a flood gate would open, I was afraid it wouldn’t stop, and I didn’t want to upset everyone. (I hadn’t found Tapping / Emotional Freedom Technique at this point yet so I was still in the really raw stages of grief).
I posted this picture that day to signal to people that I was ok. I was desperately trying to be ok, I was really trying to find my strength and sometimes having the intention to be ok is a start towards helping you get there, even if you aren’t really feeling it at the time.
This Christmas I know personally of a few people who have suffered tragic loss and trauma in recent months in different ways, so I wanted to share some advice for them and for anyone suffering in the run up to and at Christmas. This might apply to people who are still grieving loss from the past, sometimes we can manage most of the year accepting the loss, but at Christmas it really triggers us and reminds us of what we are missing.
This is my no means an exhaustive list (or in any order of priority) and I’d love to hear what your thoughts and advice is too… (add comments below or share on social media xx)
Listen to your gut instinct and try and do what you really want to do (no one is going to mind if you change your plans, or cancel last minute, they just want to support you). It really is ok to say No. Very few people will be expecting things from you, so you are allowed off the hook and have permission to do what you want and need to do at this time.
Give yourself heaps of self-compassion - what advice would you give a friend in the same situation? Write it down if it helps. That is what you should do.
Prioritise your self-care - for the whole run up do what you normally do to make yourself happy and maybe add a few extra treats for yourself too. If you normally feel better after a salt bath, then have lots of those. If you have run out of your favourite essential oil - then buy yourself a big bottle and lash it on. If you enjoy your nails done, or a massage, then book them in now.
Take some extra naps - if you can I would thoroughly recommend some cat naps throughout the month to give your body some time to catch up, rest and recover.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe - I find that when I’m stressed or anxious I suddenly realise I’ve not been breathing properly or I’ve been forgetting to breathe, as crazy as that sounds! So taking some conscious breaths to proactively send a signal to the brain to calm down is a neat little trick. If you do like essential oils, place a drop in your palms, rub together and bring to your nose and breathe deeply. You can even say to yourself ‘inhaling peace, exhaling tension’ or ‘I choose to invite peace into my life now’.
Talk to those closest to you - tell them your plan for the month and for what you’d like to do on Christmas day. Even if you don’t want to open up, you could just tell them what you are planning to do to prioritise you. It will help them not take anything personally and you can also get an ally in your corner. Have your partner cover you and take the pressure off. Have an ally to send you up to bed for a half an hour on Christmas Day and play with the kids so you can just have some time to yourself. Have a loose plan, and get them on board.
Take the pressure off - I know this is really hard, and for some life really has to continue with the rest of the family to make Christmas a special one despite the grief being felt by the whole family. However, you are most likely holding the bar and standards extremely high, and those closest to you are not expecting half of what you are trying to achieve. If you forget a present, or don’t get enough presents, or over compensate with presents, or forget the special trimmings that so-and-so love for their Christmas dinner - let it go. Acknowledge any feelings of guilt, or shame, or regret, or anger, and then try and release them. Tapping is absolutely brilliant for this if you haven’t tried it yet I would really recommend. [I have a Tapping Meditation for ‘Letting Go’ that you can follow].
Remember that it is just one day - I said that to myself a lot that first Christmas. ‘Its just one day’ over and over. It goes quickly in the grand scheme of things, and I woke up the next day with a sense of relief, like phew that’s over. And to be honest I had that same feeling and used the same approach with every first day afterwards too. The first mothers day, my first birthday, Alice’s first birthday etc.
Go with the flow - if the day starts off great and by 5pm you are really struggling, just listen to your body, honour the struggle, find a quiet corner, go have a small nap, jump in the bath, go for a walk, take deep breaths, stop washing up and snuggle up on the couch. Go to your bedroom and Tap it out… you’ll feel better for acknowledging your feelings and cry if you want to. Just let it out, however you need to do it.
I have found subsequent years to get easier and easier and now as I approach our 5th Christmas without Alice, I’ll be trying to make things as easy for myself as possible. I’m listening to my body and going with the flow. I’m not stressing yet about all the things I haven't done (on purpose), and I’m not over loading our diary with lots of things to do either (probably for the first year actually). Sometimes its nice to take it slow, to keep close family close and say no where you can.
Hopefully these tips find you well and you find some ideas or comfort here. Remember that you are not alone, so many people find Christmas a tough time, for a wide variety of reasons. I am sending you and your family so much love this Christmas, and sending you so many blessings for 2020.
If you are really struggling I would suggest phoning Samaritans for free, any day of the week, any hour of the day, no judgement, just someone to listen and perhaps give advice on where to get some support;
UK & Ireland phone: 116 123 and for other countries please google ‘mental health support’ and follow some of the links.
I run Tapping Workshops and Tapping Circles on different topics, as well as Corporate Workshops intended to teach tapping to as many people as possible. You can find out all about my different offerings here.
I work one to one with clients releasing grief, trauma, negative memories, limiting beliefs and generally helping them to let go and feel much happier in themselves. You can book a session here.