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While Christmas is meant to be a joyous time, if you have recently lost a loved one the holiday season can be anything but. As a family celebration, Christmas can be the hardest time of year because there are countless grief triggers: empty chairs, silent voices, fond memories and one less person to buy gifts for.

When everybody around you is full of Christmas cheer and having a great time, you can feel like a burden, or feel like you can’t get upset and spoil the day for others. At this time it’s important to be selfish, and do what you need to do to get through the festive season.

Here are some top tips for dealing with grief at Christmas, when your anguish seems to be magnified.

Ask for help and support

There is no shame in reaching out for help, as it’s difficult to get through this alone. Ask for support from your family, friends, neighbours or others in the community such as your religious congregation. You’ll find that all people want to do is help ease the pain for you, but they often don’t know what to say or do. Let them know how they can help you! From ringing you up each evening to taking you out on a Christmas tradition you had with your loved one, people will be there for you if you ask. If you’re feeling desperate and feel like there is nobody to turn to, call a charity helpline.

Avoid too much alcohol

You might be considering numbing the pain with alcohol – but this doesn’t work for long. Enjoy a Christmas tipple or few, but don’t overdo it and harm yourself. Drinking too much can harm your physical and mental health, and the grief will still be there tomorrow – along with a hangover.

Allow yourself alone time

You will need some alone time over the holidays, perhaps visiting the resting place of your loved one. If the festive celebrations become overwhelming, it’s OK to leave. Let family members or hosts know that you may need to sit alone in a room for a while and reflect on your bereavement. Alternatively, you may wish to just go home and be alone rather put on a brave face.

Welcome distractions

You may find it easier to keep busy over the festive period and try not to think about the person you’ve lost. Don’t feel guilty about this if this is your way of coping. Get involved in Christmas baking, helping out in the community or hosting the family Christmas party. Don’t feel guilty for carrying on with a ‘normal’ Christmas and smiling and having fun – it doesn’t mean your loved one is not in your thoughts.

Christmas can be a very difficult time, whether it’s your first Christmas without a loved one or your tenth. It does get easier with time, but if you are struggling then find out where you can get bereavement support.

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