If you’ve been bereaved, what’s the best way to handle it at Christmas?
Editor’s note: Last year when we published this a number of people approached us – through Twitter and emails – to say how hard Christmas can be for bereaved families and how much they appreciated an article that acknowledged this and provided some means of coping. With that in mind, we’ve brought it out again for Christmas 2011.
Traditionally, Christmas is a time of year for families to get together. But sometimes when our families gather, this is when we notice the empty spaces the most.
Whether this is your first Christmas without someone you love, or if it’s many years since you were bereaved, it can still be a tough time of year for anyone who has lost someone special. These are some of the things you might do to remember your missing loved ones at Christmas:
- Put a decoration on the tree in their memory
I have a decoration with my brother’s name engraved on it which he was given as a child. Sadly he passed away 18 years ago and so never met my children, but I think this is a nice way to remember him. Perhaps you or your children could create a decoration for your loved one.
- As part of your Christmas meal, make a special toast to family members no longer around
This could be an opportunity to focus on the happy memories they have given you. We also use my late granny’s trifle bowl for our traditional Christmas Eve trifle, so she is still at the table in spirit (though probably not too happy that we are using her best crystal bowl).
- Light a candle in your local church or at home in their memory
I have wandered into random churches to do this and they never seem to mind as long as you leave a few pennies in the collection box. It helps to have a physical action to symbolise your feelings, and help you move on.
- Talk about your feelings
Your children won’t understand how you’re feeling, and will likely be hyped up by the thought of Christmas. Try not to get irritated by this. It’s OK to say “I’m feeling sad because I’m thinking about Grandad” – and perhaps their mood can lift you up as well.
- Be kind to yourself
When the rest of the world seems to be showing its happiest face, it can be hard to admit that you feel sad. But it’s OK to pause, or take a step away from the celebrations. It’s OK to feel sad sometimes, it’s a natural part of bereavement.
- Don’t over-crowd your calendar and take it easy when you need to
My dad died on the 23rd December 2003 and was buried on Boxing Day. I always tend to feel a bit wobbly on the 23rd, so I don’t plan much for that day and tend to spend it quietly. But neither do I let his death overshadow Christmas because I don’t think that’s what he would have wanted.