Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top ten tips for coping with grief at Christmas

Christmas is a time for having fun with friends and family, but for some it is a difficult time that highlights the loss of a loved one.  Grief and loss are difficult to deal with at any time but for many the festive season brings more challenges. I understand those challenges only too well but also know that there are things you can do to make it easier for you and your family. I have experienced many deaths and known deep grief especially with the loss of my son Calum in 2007. Those of you who follow my blog or come along to my Happiness Club or workshops will know that I like to focus on happiness and feeling positive.   I know that happiness is possible but I am also very aware that at times it is more about getting through the next minute, hour or day, especially if your loss is a recent one.

Loss seems even more intense at this time of year as the rest of the world seems to be having a wonderful time, with all the TV ads showing the perfect family Christmas, with fabulous dinners, beautiful presents and beautiful people enjoying parties.  I know that their are many people around the country who may be struggling with their feelings of loss so here are my suggestions to make life a little easier. 
  1. Don't pretend that you are ok if you are struggling.  Share how you are feeling with someone, a chat with a friend can make all the difference.
  2. Write down how you feel, write a letter to your loved one it helps to keep them close.
  3. Let go of the emotions - cry, scream, stamp your feet, beat up cushions - please note I said cushions not people ;-)
  4. Now give yourself some comfort - wrap yourself in a blanket, have a hot mug of tea and maybe a mince pie as you have a conversation with your loved one - silently or out loud it's up to you.  If you are talking out loud be aware of who is around you I sure got some funny looks at times!
  5. Remind yourself that all things change and even feeling overwhelmed, drained, exhausted, hopeless, or utterly bereft will pass.  It is normal to feel this way and among the dark times you will begin to notice small glimmers of light.
  6. Ask for help - people want to help but often don't know what to do - let them go shopping and cook food, buy and wrap presents, help out with cleaning, looking after pets, children whatever you are finding too much of an effort.
  7. Give yourself at least one task to do each day and reward yourself afterwards - chocolate is good.  Maybe you could even help someone else with something, doing things for others can shift your focus and increase your energy too.
  8. Do what you can to get moving each day, look up, smile even if you don't feel like it and walk - outdoors is great but even around the house will help.
  9. Talk to your family and friends about what you want to do on Christmas day - imagine what your loved one would say, you may feel like shutting yourself away but having company even for part of the day can make a difference.
  10. Watch some funny movies, listen to your favourite tunes and remember the happier times. Know that you will feel better, Christmas is another day and you may find it's not as bad as you feared.
I hope this has given you some inspiration or some ideas of how you could help someone else.  

I have also arranged a special online webinar on Thursday 19th December at 8pm (GMT) where I will be giving more useful suggestions.
On this call, I will share my practical tips and suggestions on coping with grief during the festive period. The very things that make a difference to me even now.  There will be no sales pitches, this is all about practical help including: 
  • What to do if you just can't face the thought of Christmas without your loved one.
  • How to manage if your tears never seem to stop.
  • Finding some light in the darkest of days.
  • How to cope with all those Christmas adverts, songs and smiling faces.
  • What to do about cards and presents.
  • How to ask others for help.
  • Do you need a plan?

With love and kindness,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to have a happy Christmas even if you don't have a lot of cash.

Is happiness at Christmas related to how much money you spend?  This year I have been very aware of how much things cost and with almost everyone feeling the pinch it's good to know that money and material things only account for 10% of our happiness. 
Great I hear you say - I'll tell my kids that Santa said it's the actions you take and the people you spend time with that will make you happier so that's why you don't have the latest gadget, phone, toy etc.  
I am a parent too and have spent many years searching for that must have item on the Xmas list, the one thing that my kids really really wanted but seemed to be forgotten about by New Year.  I also know now looking back over the years the things I remember most about Xmas are the fun times, the laughs, making decorations, baking cakes, making sweets, our Xmas traditions that we created together. I like to give memories as presents - no I don't have a memory bowl from Harry Potter!  I like to give gifts of experiences rather than things.  There is a whole range of experience days out there to purchase - spa days, falconry, driving, chocolate making to name a few.  Great presents but they can also be expensive so here's my plan for this year - make up your own experience days. 

Give your time and energy to share something they enjoy.  My list includes - baking cakes then home made afternoon tea, photography day, craft days - candle making, sewing bags and cushions and filling jars with interesting things, shells, sand, buttons, story writing days, book swaps and reading days, music days - creating playlists and making music, film days, outdoor adventures with winter picnics.
I know that the memories created by these experiences will last a lot longer than the immediate burst of joy from a new gadget or toy.  I am giving my time, my love, my energy and my imagination to people this year. I won't still be paying for Xmas in July but I can call on the memories of the happy times that are created whenever I need them and so will the recipients of the gifts too. 
If you have any special ideas for creating happiness without spending a lot of cash I'd love to hear about them.