There are no definitive ideas on how best to handle this time of year. What follows are some suggestions, many drawn from the experience of bereaved families themselves.
Feelings: Acknowledge the emotions: - tears sadness, anxiety are very normal reactions and you don't have to pretend that they don't exist. Grief won't go away because it's Christmas. If anything it may intensify.
Know your limitations: Think about what you can comfortably handle and let others know what that is.
- Rather than focussing on other people's expectations, do whatfeels right for you, even if it means letting go of past traditions or things you feel obliged to do.
Let others know whether you want to talk openly about your loved one or not.
If you normally host the celebrations, think about whether you want to continue to do so this year. Are there ways in which others could help or take over this responsibility
Changes: Some people have found it can be helpful or make things less painful if you do things differently. These changes can be small or fairly major e.g.
- You may consider going away somewhere different for Christmas or New Year, instead of staying at home or visiting relatives.
- Some families have found it helpful to open presents, or to eat at a different time.
- Another possibility is to have friends or family take over some of the things that you or the person who has died would normally have done.
Buying Presents: This may be easier if you have a list and do it on a 'good day' . Remember though that even good days can have their difficult moments
Christmas Cards: Some families have chosen not to send any cards for the first year. It's often hard for people to decide how to sign the cards. You may find it easier to take some time and decide how you want to sign the cards before you sit down to do it,
Acknowledging and remembering the person who has died at Christmas: You may think about adding a new tradition or ritual e.g.
- Visit the cemetery or a special family place at or close to Christmas
- Light a special candle in memory
- Choose a significant flower or plant to have in your home or take to the grave.
- Choose a special ornament or decoration for your tree or for your home.
Remembering your loved one with a gift: For some it just doesn't seem right not to buy a present for their loved one. You could consider:
- Giving a gift in memory of your loved one.
- Donating the money you might normally spend to a favourite charity
- Buy a living Christmas tree or plant to put in the garden.
Helpful questions to ask yourself: when you are thinking about what to hold onto and what you can let go off, these may be useful:
- Have I considered other close family members and told them whats important for me?
- Do I/other family members really enjoy doing this?
- Would Christmas be Christmas without it?
Taking care of yourself: Remember that the Christmas season is stressful for everyone. Grief is exhausting and when combined with this time of year can be a particularly difficult. Exhaustion alters perception and can make things seem worse, so make sure you get enough rest and ask for support when you need it. Don't feel you are betraying your loved one if you manage to enjoy any of the celebrations.
Finally keep in mind that whatever you choose to do this year may not be what you decide to do next year.