How to make room for your grief at Christmas

There is nothing worse than empty chairs around the Christmas table; reminders of your grief and those you’ve loved and lost. This year, our christmases look very different than normal, as we abide by the COVID-19 restrictions which means that many of us can only be one household.

This is only going to add to any existing grief you have.

It might be your first Christmas, your fifth, your twenty-fifth, without them. Flashed by in a sparkly tinsel blur.

It’s our eighth Christmas this year without my Dad. And this year it’s my Mum, brother and I for Christmas, our smallest Christmas to date.

We used to morbidly joke that it feel as though our table is getting smaller and smaller… but sometimes it can feel like that can’t it?

Two years ago we lost my Nan, three years before that my Granny. I’m sure you’d agree, nothing can or should replace those wonderful people that filled your life.

It’s just focusing on the wonderful people who still surround you.

Waking up Christmas morning to my Mum and brother, in our Christmas pyjamas, our house adorned in lights, the speakers blaring out Christmas songs, dressing our dogs up in little christmassy outfits, is an absolute dream. One of those magical movie moments of life.

Do I wish he was with us? Of course.

Do I wish he’d mix up the brandy with the rum and struggle to set the sopping Christmas pudding alight? Every, single, year. I mean there’s nothing better than being drunk on Christmas pudding at noon is there?

Do I feel as though he’s watching? Absolutely.

What I wish most is that everyone who has loved and lost someone is sat at a table with everyone else they love. Yes, grief is always hard, but it’s so much easier if you share the pain with people you love.

Our house is filled with singing, laughter and madness 364 days of the year so we couldn’t skip Christmas could we? My Dad would be appalled. He was barmy all year round, but most of all on holidays, birthdays, Fridays or evening’s… basically most of the time.

We’ve got to carry on the tradition right? As I’m sure you all will this Christmas for everyone who isn’t here and for everyone who is.

I normally love Christmas. After this year, I still do, but I will miss seeing my whole family. I’m not a fan of silence (as you can probably tell) so not being able to have all the family together is going to be hard this year.

I can’t deny that Christmas also makes me a little bit sad now and again too. Only human, I guess. On Christmas Eve, Dad and I would go into town to get his final presents for Mum, as he’d always leave it to the last minute when he finished work.

It feels different without him and I think it’s perfectly OK to admit that. It shows how much they meant to you and those traditions you had.

It’s also OK to make new traditions, in fact I’d recommend it. We’ve relaxed the day a lot, we play music all day and have the TV on (which we never did as kids). Even small things such as changing what you have for breakfast on Christmas morning, will make the day feel different.

This year we’re eating in the kitchen at the island as it’s just the three of us. Small changes can make the day feel slightly different to normal and that really helps when nothing is normal anymore.

Over time, you also acquire new loved ones; new additions to the table. Change is inevitable, but not all of it is bad, some of it, is well, amazing.

My best advice is to focus on those lovely individuals in your life that are still here and to raise a glass to those who are no longer with us. As we’re all very lucky to know and have experienced such love.

Make room for your grief and joy on Christmas Day, and don’t force yourself to feel anything you don’t. There’s enough space in a day to feel a variety of things, so let yourself.

If you are struggling, here’s some things that help me navigate grief. But my best advice is to give yourself permission to feel however you feel, if that’s joy embrace it, if that’s gratitude share it, if it’s sadness feel it. Part of living without them is knowing they’d want you to still live your life even when they’re not there (read more on that here).

Cherish your festive memories, make sure to Zoom your loved ones you won’t see over the Christmas period and know that one day you’ll be able to celebrate together again, hugs and all.

How do you cope with your grief at Christmas?

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