You can be surrounded by family and friends and be the loneliest person in the world following the loss of your partner. Christmas can feel like an impossible hurdle as there are so many reminders that this is a time for celebration and of families coming together. The build-up can be intensely painful because it lasts so long. It isn’t that we feel the loss of our loved one more at this time, it just feels worse because there are reminders wherever we look. Everything has changed yet the world just carries on as normal.
Often, it’s the woman who is the social instigator in a relationship and losing that can close a widower’s window to the world, compounding their loneliness. Withdrawing into your own private pain can feel easier than reaching out, but it is so important for your wellbeing that you are with others. During this time of social distancing it may feel impossible, but now more than ever technology is a lifeline and having a FaceTime conversation can give you a sense of feeling connected.
When we lose someone, we become preoccupied with them and want to talk about them. There is a lifetime of memories bubbling up and one of the best things we can do is to share those memories in whatever way helps. If your sadness prevents you from being able to share all of the joy that your partner brought to your life, the legacy of love becomes lost, not only to others, but to you too. You have a duty to your partner and to those you love, to continue. Have a go-to person who you can lean on when you are really struggling. Someone you feel comfortable with and you trust.
Healing takes so many forms, and sometimes it can just be by centering yourself with your memories.
Perhaps make photo memory books for members of the family or make a scrap book of events over the years, to share. Or even just let your tears run when the loneliness is too great.
Always do something to remember your loved one so you can give their spirit energy and feel a closeness. Whether by lighting a candle or cooking their favourite dish, we have no choice but to reset the ‘Christmas spirit button’, out of love, respect and appreciation for the relationship. There is no right or wrong way to navigate the hurdles that Christmas brings. It’ s about finding what works for you, even if you have to force yourself.
Here are some ideas to think about:
· Use the Christmas tree to hang a special memento, photo or messages
· Pour a glass of their favourite tipple and take turns to share your favourite memories
· Be with the people you love, even if you want to hide under the covers
· Make it ok not to be ok and if you feel yourself folding, let it be ok to have some time on your own
· Buy yourself a special gift from your loved one to cherish
· Be wary of short-term relievers such as alcohol and junk food
· Don’t berate yourself when you have a happy moment - this is healthy and normal.
As we approach the end of any year, we turn our thoughts to changes we would like to make. Make a resolution to tend to yourself emotionally. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust and feel safe with is a powerful release and can unravel much emotional pain. Make it your resolution to share, as this helps us to stop isolating ourselves with our pain and recognises a part of life we have to go through.
Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in grief counselling and funeral care and is author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ