My father passed away last Christmas and although we weren’t particularly close, I’m finding myself welling up every time I go into town or the shopping centre. All the Christmas decorations and signs are making me feel so emotional and to be perfectly honest I really didn’t expect it. What’s worrying me is that if I’m like this now, in October when there are only a few signs up, how am I going to cope at Christmas time at all? My father was very ill and it was not a shock when he passed away, and I felt I coped well when he died, so I don’t understand why I am getting so emotional now all of a sudden. Have you any tips to deal with this coming nearer to Christmas?
First of all, I am sorry to hear of the recent death of your father. Even though you say you weren’t particularly close, he was still your father so of course, his death would have a significant impact on you. Grief, in my honest and personal experience of it, is still one of life’s mysteries. While it is a subject which has been widely studied, particularly in my field, it affects people in various different ways, at different times and with varying severity. Theories on the stages of grief have been developed and are widely accepted, yet there is not a steadfast rule as to which order the stages are to follow. There are so many factors to consider, and we are complex beings with intricate relationships. We thrive on relationships, love and connections, so when we lose somebody of significant connection (even those we don’t get one so well with), we experience trauma and loss nonetheless.
Grief does not recognise time, it can seem hidden and stay under our radars and then one day, rear its head and catch us off guard. When grief hits you, it can be because of Christmas lights, a sign on a window, a song, a smell, an act of kindness or a seemingly random incident. There is no rhyme or reason for when we are overcome by grief, as it does not belong in the logic of our minds, we cannot make sense of it. When we feel the loss of a loved one, it is from a place deep within our hearts and our minds cannot conceive of it. Logically, we all are aware we will die one day, and we will, in turn, lose our loved ones. This is a certainty, it is unavoidable and there is no way to get somebody back after we lose them. Yet when we experience grief, we feel loss, shock, anger, betrayal, hurt, abandonment, rejection, isolation, loneliness. The list goes on and on. So even knowing that we will face this one certainty in life, does not prepare us for it emotionally. And no matter how many people we lose, each experience of grief is different.
So keeping all of this in mind Terry, I cannot make suggestions that will take it away, or speed it up so it’s gone before Christmas. Grieving is a process which takes as long as it needs for you to heal, and there is no time limit on it. I can, however, advise you to be very gentle with yourself. Take in what I have said about the impact loss has on us, and allow yourself patience to deal with this. Christmas is a very emotive time, so now that you are aware that you become emotional at this time of year, bear it in mind and this will help you accept you are going through this. It has only been a number of months since your father’s passing and his first anniversary is at Christmas also, so slow down and allow yourself to feel his loss. Take time out when you are feeling vulnerable and I strongly suggest you talk to friends or family about what you are going through, try not to go through this alone. You might also consider bereavement therapy after Christmas when you have the space to deal with this. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself as you are still in a very vulnerable stage Terry.