Bereavement is hard at any time of year – but over the Christmas period, those feelings of loss and loneliness may become heightened. A time of celebration is often overshadowed by the grief of losing a loved one.
Louise Clarke, Community and Pre-Need Manager at Neville Funerals, offers some honest and practical advice on coping with bereavement over Christmas.
First and foremost, by acknowledging Christmas will be different and that it will be tough, you are preparing yourself for what is to come. Some bereaved people find that maintaining their routine and celebrating Christmas as normal is the best tribute to their loved one, while others simply do not wish to celebrate at all. Everyone handles grief differently, and losing a loved one is not a linear process – but by recognising your own feelings and what you’re comfortable with, it may make the Christmas season more bearable.
You are not alone
Arguably the most important thing to remember when dealing with grief over Christmas; as devastating as it is, there are people who understand the pain you are feeling – you are not alone. It is important to reach out to those around you, whether it be relatives, friends or even a local bereavement support group. By sharing your experiences, it may sometimes help to lighten the burden.
Talking Elephants is our free bereavement group held monthly in Luton, Stopsley, Hemel Hempstead and Hitchin. It is an informal event held for people who have suffered a loss, who would like to come along and chat to others in a similar position. Sometimes it’s just reassuring to see a friendly face, and chat to someone who has experienced something similar.
Don’t push yourself beyond what you feel able to do
Don’t feel obliged to spend Christmas a certain way and do what makes you feel comfortable. If this means swaying against the family tradition, trying something new or simply staying in – prioritise yourself and do not feel guilty for saying no. Grief is different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong way to spend Christmas, so don’t push yourself beyond what you feel able to do.
Make new traditions
Christmas is often made up of family traditions which occur year after year, but after losing a loved one these traditions may act as a painful reminder of the hurt you have suffered. A change of routine is often good, and can act as a distraction. This may mean going away for Christmas, visiting a different relative or spending time with friends. Rather than recreating past Christmas days, make new traditions.
Mark the memory of your loved one
Marking the memory of your loved one is a special way to commemorate someone’s memory over Christmas. This may be lighting a candle in their honour, leaving a Christmas card at their graveside or buying a special decoration for the tree. A Christmas tree can be used as a special place to hang mementos, such as a photograph or a letter. It is important to let yourself feel, and by leaving a nice tribute it helps to keep your loved one close by.
In each of our branches we have put up memorial trees where people can place a memorial star in memory of a loved one – everyone is welcome and it’s completely free, just another way to honour your loved one over the Christmas period.
Treasure the happy moments
If you choose to participate in Christmas festivities, don’t feel guilty, think about how your loved one would have wanted you to carry on with your life. Don’t berate yourself when you have happy moments – this is healthy and normal. Treasure any moments of joy, don’t feel guilty about them.