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Navigating the Christmas period if you are grieving

December 2021

Family Support

Christmas can often be a difficult time if you are mourning the loss of a loved one.

Whether the bereavement is recent or after many years, the festive period can be emotional and stressful. The thought of celebration and festivities may feel very far from your heart and mind.

If you’re mourning the loss of someone special, you may feel isolated and that you do not want to join in with parties and meals. It can be a challenging time as you want to share it with those close to you but know someone is missing and you may feel like you’re bringing the mood down and so want to separate yourself away so you don’t make others feel bad.

In this article Louise Tilney, Prospect Hospice’s bereavement care co-ordinator, offers ideas to help you navigate the Christmas period.

Christmas is traditionally a national holiday that may or may not be a religious festival for you.

But for many, regardless of whether you have a particular faith or none, Christmas is often associated with festive cheer, family gatherings, the sharing of food and the giving and receiving of gifts. A break in the year when we hope we will get to spend time with those we care about. Traditions, that for many of us, are rooted in childhood with all the attached memories and associations.

Whatever your circumstances, I hope the following suggestions will be helpful:

*Be gentle on yourself.

*Do as much or as little as you feel able. Keep things simple.

*Talk to family or close friends.

*Have a couple of plans that give you options on the day and over the Christmas period.

*Be prepared to change traditions or create new ones.

*Allow others to help.

*Share stories and memories of the person who has died.

*Consider ways in which that person might be remembered e.g. the lighting of a candle, a special card on the mantelpiece or a memento on the tree.

*If you are with others, make sure that you allow time out for yourself.

*If you are alone, make sure that you have explored means of staying in contact with family/friends.

Remember you don’t have to feel happy for the sake of others, but sometimes, even in the darkest of moments, we can still find something that makes us smile.

For many of us Christmas is difficult at the best of times and managing our own and other people’s hopes and expectations can feel a large responsibility.

You may have young families and children who are also grieving, yet at the same time looking forward with hope and anticipation to the sparkle of Christmas time.

Children often want and expect Christmas to look and feel the same as usual. Familiarity and routine can often bring comfort to the child but can feel out of place and painful to the adults.

Where possible, include children in decision making as you prepare for Christmas. Invite them to share their thoughts, feelings and memories and to know that it is ok to talk about the person who has died if they wish to do so.

Give yourself and them permission to both cry and to laugh. Finding some brightness in the darkest of times is an important part of our grieving.

Often, we feel we have to be strong for the sake of the children and others around us. Remember, sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t and that is ok. Be kind to yourself. These are difficult times, but you will get through. Don’t try and manage all yourself. Consider accepting offers of both practical and emotional help.

Christmas can feel a lonely time for someone who is bereaved, even when we are lucky enough to have close family and friends around.

Whatever your relationship to the person who has died, you are likely to be missing their presence and your relationship with them, even if that relationship was perhaps a difficult or complex one.

Sometimes it can feel helpful to talk to someone other than family and friends and below are some useful contact numbers that you can ring for support and information.

Prospect Hospice

If your loved one was cared for by Prospect Hospice and you would like to enquire about bereavement support with us, you can call us on 01793 816124 (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm).

If you’d like to watch our annual Light up a Life service where loved ones are remembered, you can do so on our website here

Other organisations you may wish to contact;

Cruse Bereavement Care

https://www.cruse.org.uk/

Tel: 0808 808 1677

Child Bereavement UK  

https://www.childbereavementuk.org/

Tel: 0800 028 8840

Samaritans (for anyone at any time and for any reason)

https://www.samaritans.org/

Tel: 116123

Silverline (provides information, friendship and advice for older people)  https://www.thesilverline.org.uk/

Tel: 0800 470 8090

 

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