The last in our Getting Through the Holidays series is from the excellent people at Mary Ann Evans Hospice and The Warren Bereavement Services. For those of us still dreading the 25th it is a group cheer that says, You can do it! from a lot of people who have been there. And as one of them says, Christmas is only one day. By Saturday it’ll be behind you and you can start planning how to make next Christmas a bit easier on yourself.
How to survive Christmas after a bereavement
Be with a relative or a friend. Go to a carol service
One of my coping strategies is to keep a tradition alive that was once shared with a loved one, for instance we always have a small tree decoration left by our place setting on Christmas Day so this will carry on for the years ahead when eating our Christmas dinner
As Christmas comes the excitement and joy it brings to others helps me to cope with my grief
I had a feeling of dread of first Christmas but then decided to move away from the normal Christmas we shared and for the first time did not spend it at home. It was strange and did not feel very Christmassy but I got through it without continually thinking of the previous Christmas days we shared. As the years roll on I no longer dread Christmas but spend it differently and learnt to enjoy a new way to celebrate
The problem is you do survive Christmas, you have no choice. I manage Christmas, just about, by going somewhere quiet with a box of sandwiches and a flask of tea and, of course, my lovely wife and best friend Pauline who is still with me
It is Christmas Day itself, which is the day to survive. Most families, I suspect, have a set Christmas Day routine. My recommendation is to do something completely different. For us, this meant not going to church and taking a country walk instead with a later than usual traditional Christmas dinner. That particular Christmas Day was fine and clear, cold and crisp and on such a morning it was hard to be too mournful!
Don’t be the one who invites a load of people to your house for Christmas dinner
Best to work, so volunteer to help at Salvation Army or local church
When my Dad died my Mum decided that on the first Christmas Day after his death, that she would postpone our normal Christmas Day festivities until the Boxing Day – and she would go to her local village hall and cook and serve Christmas lunch to homeless and lonely people. She said that it would give her a good reason to celebrate and get through the day
Don’t let others bully you into doing something you really don’t want to do. Trust your own instincts
Winter months and Christmas can be some of the hardest we face so be kind to yourself, don’t do what others think you should. Be guided by what your heart is telling you
One suggestion which we did as a family when my parents, who normally spent Christmas Day with us, died within a few weeks of each other, is try to vary the day’s routine slightly. i.e. if you normally eat the main Christmas meal at lunchtime, vary the day and have the meal in the evening
My mother-in-law puts lights on timers and leaves a radio or tv on so she doesn’t come home to a dark or quiet house
At certain times during the Christmas festivities I reflect on happier times with people who I loved and who are not with me. I smile and remember my parents with love and feel lucky to have had them
My husband died on Boxing Day so every year since, I have taken time out on that day to remember extra special moments with him through photos, music and even food. I then feel able to return to the hustle and bustle of life today
And a little more from Mary Ann Evans Hospice and The Warren Bereavement Services…
Share your time with family, with those less fortunate, involve yourself with church activities and the community. Avoid isolation
Feel comfortable to be yourself wherever you are. Feel able to go home when you want to. There is no “should be over it by now”
Don’t just please others
Spend time with your children and go on walks with friends
Go on holiday
Get family and friends around and cook together
Be kind to yourself, Christmas is only one day
Head of Bereavement Services
The Mary Ann Evans Hospice strives to enhance the quality of life of people who have a life limiting illness, by offering physical, emotional, social and spiritual support to them, their families and those caring for them throughout the palliative stages of their disease.
We are a registered charity and our services are provided free throughout Nuneaton, Bedworth and Northern Warwickshire.
The Warren is our bereavement services centre for adults and children. Our bereavement support includes sanctuary, one-to-ones, children and young person groups, social support and Jigsaw, our social tea party. The people in our article all attend groups and services at The Warren.
“We can’t add days to life, but we can add life to days”
Dame Cicely Saunders, Founder of the Hospice Movement
You can support our work through our website
or Facebook page
[Original picture of deer by iStock.com/Zwilling330]
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Other posts in this series