Christmas is a time for family and love, so perhaps that is why those who have suffered recent or traumatic loss struggle most of all at Christmas. It's a time when family gets together and traditions are rekindled so their loss is felt all the more when they are missing from the celebrations. If you are dreading the thought of Christmas without a loved one and are struggling to see how you will get through, here are a few useful tips.
Think carefully about what is best for you and your family. Try to identify the times and events that you might find the most difficult and decide whether you will be able to continue with them as a tribute to your loved one or whether you want to avoid them completely. Some people decide to cancel Christmas altogether or do something completely different to their past celebrations as a way of distracting themselves from the grief and creativing new traditions, whilst others prefer to do everything as their loved one used to, as a form of tribute, perhaps raising a glass in their honour and taking time to remember the happy times. What feels right for you might depend on how recently your loved one passed or whether you feel you need to continue with "normal" for the sake of stability and the benefit of the children. Whatever you decide, take time to think about your plans in advance and try to assess how you and your immediate family will cope best.
Be prepared to change
Even the best plans need to be flexible. Your experience will probably be a new one to you, so you may misjudge how you will cope or what you will find comforting. If you decide to cancel everything and suddenly find that this is not the right decision for you, ensure you have a backup plan. Perhaps put some suitable food in the freezer, or ascertain where friends and family will be and whether you would be welcome if you changed your mind half way through the day. In most cases, people will be there for you and can always put an extra chair at the table and share out the plentiful food for one or two more. Likewise, if you have planned to be with people and suddenly find you need time alone, suggest you take the dog for a walk or find a quiet corner of the house to collect your thoughts. Do what you need, when you need to and ask friends to keep things flexible.
Take time to remember your loved one
Whether it is on the big day with a group of people or a quiet moment before you go to bed, take time to remember your loved one and focus on the happy times if you can. Remember how lucky you were to have had them in your life and set aside some time to focus on them. You might want to visit a grave or special place for them or bring a photo or personal effect with you when you go out if you think it will bring you comfort.
Take care of yourself
Christmas can be a time for excess, including food and alcohol. Try to avoid too many stimulants such as chocolate, coffee, nicotine and alcohol. Although you may derive temporary comfort, you may feel far worse afterwards and they may affect you sleep. Try to get exercise, fresh air and a balanced diet as well as plenty of rest and sleep. Maybe try some relaxation techniques, mindfulness or breathing exercises. Take time for yourself to do what will relax you. People will understand that you are grieving and should allow you to do what is best for you.
Remember things will get better
As time passes, whatever the circumstances of your loss, it will become easier, though it may be difficult to believe that now. It can be an intensely emotional time so may always be more difficult than other times of the year, but in time, you will find an new version of normality and find it easier to focus on the good times.
You may have a good friend or relative who will be there to listen and comfort. Ask for help if you need it - both emotionally and practically. If you find yourself short of someone to listen and offer hope, then don't be afraid to speak to a professional. Friends may not know what to say, but a professional will.
If you have followed all of the above advice but are still struggling over the Christmas period,
call the Cruse Helpline on 0808 808 1677
If in the New Year, you decide you would benefit from weekly counselling with a qualified professional, call CCC on
Peterborough 01733 553166 Cambridge 01223 233047
CCC wishes you peace and comfort this festive season.