Tania Brocklehurst, Clinical Bereavement Lead at The Hospice of St Francis and Chair of the Herts and Beds Bereavement Alliance, shares her tips and thoughts on getting through the Christmas holidays for people who have lost a loved one…
Winter, especially around Christmas and New Year, can feel particularly challenging as it’s often a time traditionally spent with family. With shops displaying all things Christmas the moment Halloween is over, and adverts on TV becoming increasingly festive, it's hard to escape from the impending ‘Season to be Jolly’.......So what can you do to help yourself get through it?
1. Whether you’ll be inundated with well-meaning invitations, or are likely to be alone, consider in advance how you’d like to spend key dates. For some, sticking to the same routine and keeping everything as normal as possible is what works for them, while for others, it helps to do something completely different. There’s no right or wrong in this situation.
2. Make time for you. At what can be a busy or stressful time of year, ensure that you’re taking care of yourself. Take baths, eat well-balanced meals, try to regulate your sleep and have a rest when you need to. Make sure you attend scheduled healthcare and doctor’s appointments. Even if you don't really feel like it, your body needs fuel and maintenance to carry you through this time.
3. It's okay to feel okay. We often hear people worrying that they are managing better than they thought they would. This doesn't mean that you love or miss your husband, partner or wife any less. It’s important to allow yourself to smile, engage in pleasurable activities and live - and not feel guilty. If you’re having a good day, let it be so.
4. Equally, it's okay not to be okay. You may well feel as though you need to appear to be coping for the benefit of others. This often happens in families who wish to protect each other from their feelings surrounding the situation. However, moments of shared grief can be extremely therapeutic. Often, those around you will be relieved you are talking to them. If you prefer to deal with your emotions privately, make time to light a candle, visit the cemetery, write in your journal, do whatever helps to connect you to your grief.
5. For some, work provides a welcome routine and reason to get up in the morning. For others who aren’t in this situation, the holiday season can feel longer and lack purpose. If this is the case, try to build at least one activity or focus into your day. It might be a walk to the local shops or a visit to the library or to see a friend.
6. Be kind to yourself. This can be an emotive time of year. Sometimes, taking one task at a time, not looking too far ahead and just getting through the day will feel like both a challenge and an enormous achievement.
7. Talk. If it feels like people are avoiding you, it might be that they just don’t know what to say, or don’t want to upset you. Do let someone know how you’re feeling. Whether it's a family member, friend, your GP, neighbour, someone from an organisation that cared for the person that has died, or one that specialises in bereavement support such as Cruse, there is support out there - you don’t have to be alone.