Christmas after the death of a loved one

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The Christmas is a time of joy and hope , but is also a time to take stock of the year and, on many occasions, feel nostalgia and remember those who are no longer . These dates can be painful for individuals and families who have lost a loved one. Currently, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is a situation that has hit thousands of families around the world and that has put on the table, more than ever, a question: Can Christmas be celebrated afterwards? to live the loss of a loved one?

According to Lola Cabrera , a psychologist for the mourning groups of Los Espacios de Apoyo de Mémora, it is possible to celebrate Christmas . “The most important thing is to understand that it is a different Christmas and you have to work on the attitude with which the situation is faced,” says the expert, who participated in the talk “Facing Grief at Christmas” , organized by Fundación Mémora through the Support Spaces.

The psychologist explains that Christmas, unlike other times of the year, is associated with components totally removed from mourning . “We associate these dates with the colored lights, the gifts and the joy for family reunions. We associate Christmas with positive memories and experiences. But when a complicated situation such as loss has been experienced, the emotions felt are not in tune with what Christmas represents ”, highlights Cabrera.

In this sense, the expert points to reinvention as the perfect formula to be able to face the holidays during a grieving process . “When we lose someone we are never the same again. We have to rediscover ourselves and adapt the celebrations to the circumstances, taking into account our own feelings. There will be those who want to meet and those who do not, there will be other people who will not want to make a toast or, for example, who will want to remember the loved one with a symbol, candle or photograph. The most important thing is to do what you feel, ”explains Cabrera.

Taking into account that each component of the family is different and that grief is experienced differently , what factors must be taken into account when preparing the first Christmas after the death of a loved one? Cabrera highlights five essential aspects.

· Listen to the inner self: During the Christmas holidays it is essential to listen to the inner self, accept your own emotions and do what you feel. “There is nothing better or worse, everyone lives their circumstances and has their way of acting,” says Cabrera.

· Consensus as a family: Loss, on many occasions, affects the whole family. It is important to discuss days before how the parties are going to be organized and how they want to be celebrated. “We must not improvise and, above all, we must avoid situations with which we do not feel comfortable,” says the expert.

· Understand the other: Each member of the family may think differently. Everyone, including children and the elderly, must be listened to and come up with suggestions.

· Respect and not judge: As with thoughts, feelings can vary from one person to another. For example, someone may decide to be absent and no one should question their attitude.

· Listen to children: “Many times we underestimate their ability to understand and they can contribute many things,” explains Cabrera. The expert recommends making them aware of the situation and not hiding anything from them .

Support is essential
For the support group psychologist it is important to be able to share a grieving situation , which on many occasions generates unpleasant emotions, imposing loneliness and sadness. In this sense, the expert emphasizes that it is essential to normalize all these sensations . “In our society there is a pressure to be happy. Many times, it is thought that by sharing the pain with someone we force them to get us out of there and, in others, the person who suffers must make an extra effort not to express their pain, ”says Cabrera.

Support Spaces are a good place to express yourself . “Support groups have the power to normalize. All the people who come have a common element. There they can express themselves without being judged because the rest share the same emotions, and they can share strategies to cope with the situation ”, explains the psychologist.

There is no single way to cope with grief and therefore each person must find their own motivation or reasons for coping with it .

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