Coping with loss at Christmas

Jane and JoshIf you need help, coping with loss at Christmas, we think you might like a look at tips from The Compassionate Friends. This group has come together through common experience – the loss of a son or daughter. The tips, we think, will be of general help to anyone dealing with loss.

We became aware of the group through members and friends of Final Fling, Jane and Jimmy, who lost their son Josh in a motorbike accident. Find out more about them here.

Tips from The Compassionate Friends

(We’ve edited this a bit so the tips are relevant to all.)

“Christmas can’t be the same as it was because our family is not the same – not complete. If this is the first year, it will be painfully different from previous years. We may find the anticipation and stress of what we ‘should’ be doing very hard to deal with. Do we decorate the tree, send cards, give presents, attend a place of worship, join in the festive meal, go to a family party? Do we continue with important traditions of trips to the shops, the decorations, a pantomime, and a visit to see Father Christmas?

The run up to Christmas – with all the accompanying anticipation– can be more difficult to cope with than the actual day itself.

Here are some tips

  • Don’t allow other people to dictate to you how you should get through this time of year.
  • Don’t feel you have to go to the office party or festivities with friends/extended family if you can’t cope with them.
  • Sometimes we don’t know what we’ll feel like doing until the last minute. Don’t feel you have to have a plan. Tell people you will decide on the day and you will come if you feel up to it, but may well not be able to.
  • Let close friends/family know that you are struggling and need to be able to talk.
  • Tell people that you need to have your loss acknowledged by others at Christmas. Say their name.
  • Within the family try to talk to each other about how you are feeling or what you all might want to do. Thinking and talking together can help us to prepare ourselves for Christmas, and sometimes when these plans do go right, the day can bring surprising comfort to us.
  • If you have young children in the family be aware that they might wish for Christmas to carry on as before – although this can be enormously painful for you, for surviving children the normality of Christmas celebrations can be a comfort.
  • Don’t put too much stress on yourself. If there are difficult relations who expect to visit or for you to visit them,  just say you can’t do it this year if it’s going to make you feel worse.  Or introduce a time limit – “We’ll come over for a quick drink but will only stay an hour.”
  • Develop a Christmas ritual to mark your loss… light a candle; spend time at a special memorial place on your own or with others.
  • Spend time with people who understand. Avoid those who don’t.
  • On the day itself, make time for yourself to escape if things are too much.  A walk outside can really help ease tensions.  Or take yourself off for a long warm bath.
  • If you can’t cope with the idea of Christmas at all, go away and do something completely different. (Be aware, though, that sometimes being away from supportive friends or family can be more difficult and the jollity of strangers may be painful)
  • Try to take some gentle exercise every day  – really helps boost those much needed endorphins.

Find more specific tips for parents who have lost a child on their website.

The Compassionate Friends National Helpline will be open 10-4 and 7-10pm daily during the Christmas period to support parents who have lost a child: 0345 123 2304.

Their booklet ‘Coping With Christmas’ (with the information above) is available HERE.


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