We know that facing Christmas alone, or whilst grieving, can be a daunting prospect. This year it is going to be harder than ever. Whether you were bereaved in 2020 or many years before, ongoing Covid restrictions mean it is going to be difficult for many of us to be with the people we would most want to see. The virus is adding an extra layer of anxiety to the planning for so many people. It is going to be more important than ever to try and look after yourself and work out the best ways to cope.
Here are some practical ways to cope with the loss of a loved one over Christmas.
1. Consider different ways of celebrating
One of the things that can help can be to spend some time trying to work out, well in advance, which arrangements will best suit your needs and the needs of others who share your loss. Some bereaved people find that they do not wish to celebrate Christmas at all, whilst some find that simply maintaining their routine and celebrating as normal is the best tribute they can pay their loved one. It may feel important to make a special effort to remember the person who has died. This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, or it may involve visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These can be things that we do alone, or with friends or family. You may have photos or particular memories which you treasure; sharing these with others may be something that brings you together.
2. Accept that others may have different ways of mourning
We know that people remember and mourn in different ways. Conflict within a family can sometimes arise when we have expectations of how others should grieve, so try to be sensitive to others’ needs, and to talk openly about what will be best for you.
3. Try to maintain a routine
The Christmas period may mean that your normal routine is disrupted, and this can make it easier to forget to look after yourself. Trying to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating are small things that can make a difference. Seeing friends or family, or volunteering for the day, can all help.
4. Go easy on the drink
It’s tempting to drink more on festive occasions, and it can feel like a drink might help numb any difficult feelings. But it’s important to remember that using alcohol to escape the pain of loss provides only very temporary relief. If you find you’re relying heavily on drinking alcohol, consider taking some drink free days. You can also find advice from Drink Aware on how to reduce your alcohol consumption.
5. Remember the happy times
Even many years after someone dies Christmas can be a difficult, intensely emotional time when we need to look after ourselves and those around us. But as time passes, special occasions like Christmas can help us remember happy memories of good times shared in the past.
6. Skip the Christmas films
It can be tough when you are bombarded by images of people enjoying happy family times. If it’s getting too much, consider taking a break from the Christmas TV and social media and maybe take a walk or get some fresh air in any way you can.
7. Talk to someone
If you’re struggling to deal with the grieving process over Christmas, you can message a trained grief counsellor on this website or the link below.
There are many articles on parents with estranged adult children. This article however will touch on adult children with estranged parents.
When people hear about the loss or the impending loss of an estranged parent some people feel shocked and unprepared to experience the range of emotions of grief. They may struggle with a wide variety of things that they will have to be consider in a very short period of time. Funeral attendance, flights across the country, other people’s feelings and their own feelings. The loss may leave them mourning not only their estranged parents death but also the loss of an imaginary, what-may-have-been relationship.
Sometimes people find out about the death of their parent in an insensitive way. Maybe they found out after the fact in obituaries or through the “grape-vine” of other estranged family members. Communication in estranged family relationships are sometimes non-existent. It is not unusual for major events – even a death – to not be communicated. They may assume that they were left out with evil intent when it’s possible that the family of the estranged parent has perceived the relationship to be so strained that the person wouldn’t want it communicated.
Reasons people may grieve an estranged parent:
Grieving that the relationship now has no chance of mending. Often at some level there is an unspoken hope that the relationship might be restored. Death closes the door on reconciliation. Words are left unsaid and the feelings still remain, sometimes without closure.
Grieving the loss of a part of heritage. Even though the relationship with the parent wasn’t strong, the death involves someone who is a part of their lineage and the chance to learn about the other half of their family may be gone.
Grieve what might have been. People reflect on a time when they loved the parent, or wanted to love them. Although there may not be a longing for things to change, there is a feeling of melancholy that things were not different. The death of the parent brings to mind ideas of how the relationship should have been. After the loss, the dream for a better relationship remains only a dream, and in many cases people grieve the death of the dream rather than the loss of the person.
Some people experience apathy to the loss of the non-existent parent in their lives. It is entirely possible that they dealt with the grief of loss when they were first estranged. The length of time and purpose of the estrangement greatly affects each persons response.
Ways to help someone with the loss of an estranged parent:
Regardless of whatever expectations they think society has placed on them for handling the loss of an estranged parent, they have experienced a loss and they are allowed to grieve. Giving them space to grieve without judgment is important.
People may express deep sadness and remorse for the wasted years. Missed phone calls or chances to re-connect and opportunities lost. Remind them to not waste the rest of their life looking back at what could have been.
Talking about the past can be cathartic and open doorways to recovery. Though sometimes people don’t realize that reciting a general litany of of unhappiness is one of the main reasons they stay stuck. The goal is to become emotionally complete with what happened so that they don’t need to be a current victim of what happened in the past. It’s bad enough that they were mistreated and/or harmed, but remaining stuck in the destructive mental repetition can prevent them from moving forward.
Remind them that forgiveness isn’t saying that the estranged child ‘accepts’ or ‘approves’ what happened. Forgiveness is the acknowledgment that what happened, happened, and that they are now ready to let go of the baggage. Forgiveness isn’t always about the other person, it’s about moving forward.
What NOT to say to someone grieving the death of an estranged parent:
“They were an awful person, why do you even care?” Invalidates the feelings of the grieving person. They are trying to figure out their own emotions in the situation. They may be feeling confused or upset that they care about this person too. They may be upset that they care for this person at all, adding even more to their confusion and grief. Invalidating their feelings may make them feel like they aren’t allowed to express them at all.
When will you feel better?” Expectation for a timeline for grieving puts unnecessary pressure on the griever to just get over it and again reinforces that they aren’t allowed to express their emotions.
“You didn’t even know him/her” amplifies what the griever is probably already thinking. Knowing this doesn’t take away from the pain of being unable to connect to their estranged parent, in cases it might even be the primary cause of their grief.
Liberating Losses: When Death Brings Relief, By Jennifer Elison and Chris Mcgonigle. Sometimes we are relieved that our loved one is no longer suffering; at the other end of the spectrum, a death might finally free us of an abusive or unhappy relationship. In this groundbreaking book, the authors share their own and others’ stories, compassionate clinical analysis, and pragmatic counsel with other disenfranchised survivors.
Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, By Susan Forward. In this remarkable self-help guide, Dr. Susan Forward draws on case histories and the real-life voices of adult children of toxic parents to help you free yourself from the frustrating patterns of your relationship with your parents — and discover a new world of self-confidence, inner strength, and emotional independence.
Mother’s Day is Sunday. Will you be celebrating, hibernating, or going through the motions? For so many people for so many reasons, Mother’s Day is not always a day of celebration.
A couple of years ago, about this time of year, I was talking with a pastor friend of mine. I mentioned how hard Mother’s Day is for women who are struggling with infertility and for birth mothers who have placed a child for adoption. I suppose I thought I might be helping to educate her on the complexities of this day of celebrating motherhood. It turns out that she needed no education on these complexities.
My pastor friend sighed and surprised me by saying that Mother’s Day is a nightmare for the church and that she was always thankful when it was over.
It’s not just the infertile who find this day painful, but also anyone who has lost a child or is estranged from a child.
Women whose children are struggling with addiction or are in jail often find Mother’s Day sad too since some feel like failures as a mother.
Single women who want to be a mom and feel time passing them by feel their loss more intensely on this day set aside to celebrate the joys of motherhood.
Moms who have placed their children through adoption may feel their empty arms more intensely on Mother’s Day.
And then there is the view from the other side of the mother/child relationship: women who have lost their mothers or are estranged from their mothers may dread this day that reminds them of their loss.
Suffering Silently Through Mother’s Day
I thought of how myopic I’ve been. As a daughter, I liked having a day to honor my mother. As a mom, I liked having a day where my kids and husband honor me. As someone immersed in the world of infertility and adoption, I was aware of how Mother’s Day affects the infertile and birthmothers. If I had taken the time to think it through, I would have realized of course, that they aren’t alone in their suffering, but honestly, I hadn’t taken this time.
So many who suffer through Mother’s Day are invisible. Other than your close friends, you don’t know who has had three miscarriages, or hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, or doesn’t hear from her grown son other than once a year, or who placed a child for adoption years before. But then pain is often invisible unless you’re the one feeling it, isn’t it?
So as you sit in church this Sunday or at a restaurant surrounded by your family at your celebration lunch, look around you. Really look at the people who are there and recognize that not all are celebrating. Also notice who isn’t there; who is holed up at home watching a Law & Order marathon with a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s because it is simply too painful to participate.
Ihope these articles will help you through difficult times:
The 5 stages of grief and loss are:
1. Denial and isolation;
People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them. The stages of grief and mourning are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life, across many cultures. Mourning occurs in response to an individual’s own terminal illness, the loss of a close relationship, or to the death of a valued being, human, or animal. There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.
In our bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and express each stage with different levels of intensity. The five stages of loss do not necessarily occur in any specific order. We often move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve this final stage of grief. The death of your loved one might inspire you to evaluate your own feelings of mortality. Throughout each stage, a common thread of hope emerges: As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.
Many people do not experience the stages of grief in the order listed below, which is perfectly okay and normal. The key to understanding the stages is not to feel like you must go through every one of them, in precise order. Instead, it’s more helpful to look at them as guides in the grieving process — it helps you understand and put into context where you are. Please keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeve and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try not to judge how a person experiences their grief, as each person will experience it differently.
Although it will happen to us all, the loss of a parent is always a major shock in our lives and a time of grief and sadness. Everyone copes in their own way, but some will find it more difficult than others. Some of the ideas on these pages may help you to cope if you have lost your father or mother. It can help enormously to get involved in the funeral arrangements and make sure that your feelings are expressed. Whether that means that you write some words, or choose some music for the ceremony, it is good to be part of it.
The death of a spouse or significant other is an earth-shattering event that brings incomprehensible grief. Your partner was, after all, the person with whom you shared your dreams and built your life – the person you loved more than life itself. Not only is the relationship between spouses or partners defined by the most intimate emotional and physical bonds of any human relationship, but your partner may have filled many other roles in your life as well, such as best friend, co-parent, confidant, traveling companion, or bridge partner. And if the roles within your relationship were clearly defined, your loved one may have been the only one who ever cooked, cleaned, brought home a paycheck, took out the garbage, did the laundry, or paid the bills.
The passing of someone so central to your life is certain to leave a tremendous emotional, physical, and practical void. Your grief may be so profound that you feel like your hope for the future died with your spouse. But although nothing and no one can make your pain go away, you can find in others the support you need as you work through the stages of grief and learn to live with the changes in many areas of your life, including those that follow.
Helping Yourself Heal When an Adult Sibling Dies by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
“To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” —Clara Ortega
Whether your sibling was younger or older, whether the death was sudden or anticipated, whether you were very close to your sibling throughout your lives or experienced periods of separation, you are now grieving. To grieve is to experience thoughts and feelings of loss inside you. If you loved your sibling, you will grieve. To mourn is to express your grief outside of yourself. Over time and with the support of others, to mourn is to heal.
The death and loss of a child is frequently called the ultimate tragedy. Nothing can be more devastating. Along with the usual symptoms and stages of grief, there are many issues that make parental bereavement particularly difficult to resolve. And this grief over the loss of a child can be exacerbated and complicated by feelings of injustice — the understandable feeling that this loss never should have happened. During the early days of grieving, most parents experience excruciating pain, alternating with numbness — a dichotomy that may persist for months or longer. Many parents who have lost their son or daughter report they feel that they can only “exist” and every motion or need beyond that seems nearly impossible. It has been said that coping with the death and loss of a child requires some of the hardest work one will ever have to do.
Pregnancy loss and infant death
When a baby dies before it is born or soon after birth, parents face a difficult emotional task: they must try to say goodbye to someone they had little chance to know. They must accept that a life has ended, even though it barely began. Just as with any death and loss of a child, you are likely to experience some of the more common symptoms of grief — you may go into shock or even deny that your baby has died. Depression, anger, frustration and other painful emotions are normal and to be expected. And even if you are normally a committed, caring person, you may find that you don’t care about anything or anyone right now. As noted earlier, for many parents this time is simply one of existence and survival and very little more.