Sunday, December 23, 2018

Why Christmas Can Be The Hardest Time Of The Year

They say Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and for the most part, it really is. There's so much to be happy and grateful for during the Christmas period...but after someone you love dies, everything changes, completely. Forever.

My Grandad impacted my life so much. I probably wasn't even aware how much I adored and idolised him, until after he died, very suddenly. I never had a great relationship with my father - and so my Grandad gave me the love and nurturing that I needed. It quickly became evident to me as a child that I couldn't rely on my father but my Grandad would always be there, through everything. Any dance show I had, he was there. Anytime I was worried about ANYTHING, he'd make me feel okay and safe again. Losing him was my first experience with grief and it has been so much harder than I could have ever imagined and since then, I've always wanted to write about it here on my blog. There are so many notes stored away in my phone about how much it SUCKS and too many cringe-inducing metaphors for the pain that I'm oh, so glad I never shared with anyone.

Any type of grief is incredibly difficult to endure - but losing the parent-like figure in your life is something that you will never be prepared for, ever... 

Everyone that celebrates Christmas probably has their own traditions but I think the one thing that we can all relate on is having that one thing or event that without wouldn't even feel like Christmas. You know, that feeling of "Wow, it's officially Christmas." For me, Christmas would officially start on Christmas Eve. After baking gingerbread, my Grandad would come over to give us the presents from the rest of the family. It wasn't the presents that I looked forward to, it was just seeing him. Denial is a really painful thing but also seems to be my most used coping mechanism. If something hurts too much and I can't find a way to immediately fix it, let me drink a hot cup of denial. 

When the first Christmas after my Grandad's death arrived and he didn't come over, like he usually would, it's like my heart broke all over again. That probably sounds dumb because of course, I should have accepted the fact...but sometimes, you expect the people you love to defy all logic and always find a way to come back to you. 

Dr. Seuss once said: “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” and I feel that in my soul. 

When you lose someone, you don't just lose that person. You're instantly stripped of so many things...things you didn't even realise had a huge amount of value to you, at the time. It almost feels like a piece of you died with them. Sadly, our most well-loved traditions can end up becoming huge triggers and even make the festive period difficult to get through. 

This year will be the fifth Christmas without my Grandad and if you're reading this and have lost someone too, you will know oh, so well just how quickly time seems to fly once they're no longer here. People would always tell me that I need to get over it and even though I knew life needed to move forward, it was still a really difficult thing to accept. 

It doesn't have to just be grief though, many people don't enjoy Christmas for many different reasons and it can have a huge impact on your mental health. Last year, I visited my GP shortly before the Christmas period and even he explained that many people find the festive period extremely hard, which made me feel a lot less alone. As cliché as it sounds, time really does heal and although Christmas will never be the same for me, I don't dread the festive period as much as I used to. This year especially, I've actually started to feel excited again. 

So, if you're reading this and are dreading the Christmas period, for whatever reason. Here are some tips that I found helpful...

1. Your feelings are SO valid. It's ok to express them!

Whenever I've experienced a huge emotional trauma, I automatically feel guilty for having those emotions and quickly try to bury them because I don't want to bring anyone else down. I think sometimes, it feels easier to fight your feelings and pretend something isn't happening than actually treating yourself the way that you should. Trying to pretend something isn't happening may seem like a good idea in the moment, however, you usually end up going into a mode of self-destruction and making a lot of unhealthy choices. Albus Dumbledore once said: "Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it." and has he ever been wrong? NOPE! It's totally okay not to be okay, regardless of the time of year. The best thing I learnt this year is that sometimes, you just need to feel what you feel, it's such an important part in the healing process.

2. Practice self-care as much as you can. 

When I'm struggling the most with my mental health, I always seem to completely neglect my basic needs but I think this can make us feel so much worse. Always make sure you're getting enough water, food and sleep. I can't even articulate how important this is!!!

3. It's okay to stay within your comfort zone.

I think the festive season can create a lot of unnecessary pressure. To be have the BEST Christmas and to attend a whole load of parties and family events. I used to dread the Christmas season because I didn't want to disappoint anyone but I think it's totally okay to stay within your comfort zone and celebrate Christmas how you want to. Not all families are perfect, some are very toxic and it is MORE than okay to not want to endure that. Celebrate how you want to, with who you want to. If not celebrating at all would make you happy, do it and don't feel guilty. 

4. Take breaks.

If you aren't a huge fan of Christmas or you just find the day to be "too much", either physically or mentally, be sure to take time out when you need it. This could range from just getting some fresh air and going on a quick walk or whatever you think would help you relax and de-stress. You might even find it helpful to pre-plan your day to ensure you'll be comfortable. 

5. Communicate with your support network.

Whether you're going through a painful breakup, struggling with your mental health or grieving for someone, when things get tough, talk to your support network so they know how you're feeling. I think this is so important because, this way, you'll have someone on your side, helping you through it all. When I was most sad about my Grandad, I found it really helpful to talk about him, to help keep his memory alive. Last year, I was going through a very painful breakup and I'm so thankful for my Mum for helping me through it all! It can be really daunting expressing your feelings to someone else but it really does help!

Please remember that you're never alone, no matter how bad it seems - and I hope you have a lovely Christmas, however you're choosing to spend it! 

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