Some times are always more difficult than others. Christmas is a family occasion for many and may be especially difficult for years after bereavement. Family and friends tend to understand this and invitations around this time are likely to be generally welcome. However if you are grieving you may dread such invitations whilst welcoming the kind thoughts behind them. You may feel that you will be unable to bear the forced jollity and family atmosphere. You may be uncomfortably aware that for you, Christmas can never be the same again. Our guest blogger and bereavement expert, Judy Carole provides some guidance.
During the weeks and days leading up to Christmas thoughts and memories of the person who died may occupy your mind and cast a shadow over the time leading up to the day. It may be that at this season more than at any other time, you feel overcome by grief and despair. Everyone around seems to be in a festive mood and it may seem churlish to cast any gloom over the proceedings.
The surprising thing is that feelings of sadness and gloom are actually very common around Christmas. There are thousands of people who, if asked to express their real feelings, will tell you that they hate Christmas. If you are dreading Christmas then you are not alone. Although knowing this may not help, you may still feel that you need to get through the festivities and hope not to upset others or let your grief intrude on their enjoyment.
One idea might be to look ahead and decide for yourself what your Christmas plans are. Then when well-meant invitations come along, you can say ‘thanks but no thanks’ with sincerity and calmness. You could, for example go away for Christmas. Many hotel chains have ‘Christmas specials’ deals which are aimed at those who are alone.
If this is your choice no one should deny you – just be sure that it IS your choice and that you are not choosing this option because you think you will only cast a damper on other people’s Christmas cheer. It can help to remember that you are probably not the only person who is grieving. Many a widow or widower has gone along with Christmas plans of their children in order not to upset them, without realising that they too may be feeling the huge gap left this holiday season by the absence of a parent. If you think this may be the case you might plan a little touch to the celebrations which will help everyone in their time of grieving.
You might invite a friend or friends (or other family members) who are in a similar situation to spend Christmas with you. You could plan a joint effort with each person bringing an item of food or a ‘festive’ contribution (‘you bring the crackers, Kathy will bring the turkey and I’ll supply the drink’). Even if things go wrong or something is forgotten you can laugh about it together.
Alternatively this might be a good time to consider spending your Christmas Day or holiday period caring for others in a voluntary capacity. Crisis, a charity for the Homeless are often looking for volunteers over the Christmas period and there are certain to be other charities who need help around that time of year. Many people have considered volunteering at Christmas but have felt unable to do so because of other family commitments. Perhaps this ‘first Christmas’ anniversary is the time to reconsider the idea. If looking for volunteering possibilities around the Christmas period do not leave it too late in the year to do so.
Judy Carole is the Director and founder of End of Life Management Ltd (ELM),an umbrella organisation for all non-medical end of life care.
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