The journey of grief ebbs and flows and can vary in intensity. Grief can be particularly difficult to cope with at certain times of the year – one of those times being Christmas. What was a happy, joyous time is now one filled with heartache and longing to see and hold your child again. So how can a bereaved parent survive Christmas?
Be gentle on yourself and don’t expect too much of yourself. Go at your own pace and try not to get pushed or rushed into doing things before you feel ready. Accept that you might accept an invitation but may not feel up to attending on the day and have to cancel. This is OK. Also remember it is OK to say NO to invitations.
Don’t feel pressured to entertain, take part or volunteer, if its more that you feel you can handle.
Accept offers of help, whether it be help with household chores, accepting meals or offers to look after other children, or if you have other children let loved ones and friends help with Christmas preparations (decorating the tree or purchasing presents for your other children) if you don’t feel up to it.
Accept that some Christmas traditions may be missed this year and new traditions may be started.
If you don’t feel up to it don’t open Christmas cards that you may have received. Set them aside to read at a later date.
Find time for active grieving. Try not to pack your days with lots of activities in the hope of keeping busy. Packing days full can lead to a build-up of emotions which can have a pressure cooker effect.
Take time out from your grief. Try to find something that will allow you to switch off from the day to day hardships of dealing with grief. Do something that will allow you to lose yourself if only for a few minutes. Listening to a piece of music, drawing or meditation may allow you to do this.
Look after yourself both physically and emotionally as grief is exhausting.
If you are religious, visit a church or speak with your clergy. Many people find comfort in their faith.
Remember that it is OK to smile, laugh or find joy in Christmas without feeling guilty.
Start a journal. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper can be hugely beneficial in helping to deal with your grief.
Speak with a professional counsellor. Red Tree Foundation offer free professional bereavement support for any sudden unexpected loss of a child from conception to 17 years of age.
It is important for a bereaved parent to understand there is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no right and wrong way to survive Christmas. Be guided by how you feel.