“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” So the song goes. For many people, though, Christmas isn’t a wonderful time at all. And if you’ve suffered a close bereavement, whether it’s the first Christmas since your loss or many years have passed, Christmas can be one of the hardest times of the year.
When a loved one has died, the thought of Christmas can fill us with dread. We remember the joys of Christmases past, and wonder how we will be able to get through this season when the rest of the world seems to be rejoicing. However hard we try to enter into the celebration of Christmas, a sudden recollection of our loss can easily bring us down to earth with a bump.
You may feel like hiding away until it is over, but it’s important to remember that the anticipation of Christmas Day is often far worse than the day itself.
It is possible to make this festive season meaningful, even though it may not be the Christmas you had hoped for.
Here are a few ideas that you might find helpful:
Don’t be pressurised into feeling you have to do anything – remember you only have to do as much as you want to do. Leave the words “ought” and “should” out of your vocabulary.
Accept any offers of help and don’t feel like a failure for doing so.
Avoid the shops as much as possible – it can make Christmas seem more empty and shallow than it already feels.
If you need to buy presents, try shopping on-line and getting gifts delivered.
Find creative ways of remembering your loved one on Christmas day. For example, you could light a memorial candle for them at the dinner table.
If you can’t face Christmas dinner at home, take a flask of soup and some sandwiches and go walking on Christmas Day. Doing something completely different can help to lessen the sense of loss.
Take time to share special memories or stories of your loved one with family or friends who care. Focus on happy memories, not regrets.
If you have children, try to make Christmas special for them by creating some new happy memories, despite the sadness you are feeling.
Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you, and don’t try to live up to the expectations of society or the media.
Accept that this time of the year will be a difficult time and be gentle on yourself – give yourself the time and space to grieve. Perhaps next Christmas you may be able to look back, see that you are a little way further down the road, and feel more able to face the festive period.