If you have recently lost a much loved family member or close friend and are not looking forward to Christmas, or if you dread the festive period every year as it is a painful reminder of someone you have lost and miss dreadfully, there are a number of ways to help feel that person close by and bring a little comfort this year.
Don’t ignore the fact
Talk about how much you miss them, laugh about the times there were here or remember funny stories about previous Christmas get togethers. You talking openly will be a stress reliever for you more than you’d realise, but it would also make those around you feel more comfortable and willing to mention them too, when they may have otherwise felt a little awkward.
Keep them close
There are numerous items that can be dedicated to your loved one that you can have around you in the home as a constant reminder that in some way they are close by and still remembered. Personalised baubles, tea light holder or simple hanging decorations can help you feel that in some small way they are still part of the celebrations in your home.
Create new traditions
Times are different but that doesn’t mean you can’t include your lost loved one in traditions going forward, indeed creating new traditions in their memory may bring comfort in years to come. Every year, when we have finished decorating our Christmas tree, it has become a new tradition that the children each take a bauble dedicated to Grandparents they have lost and choose a special place to hang it at the front of the tree.
Bring out your keepsakes
If you have collected small treasures, mementoes or trinkets of your loved one and kept them safely in a memory box, Christmas get togethers are a special time, when everyone is together and relaxed, to get the box out and go through the keepsakes with family and friends, especially younger members whose memories may be fading a little. Share stories, remember good times and comfort each whilst enjoying the keepsake items.
Light a candle
Choose a special time, either alone or with others, and light a candle whilst pausing for a moment to remember. A simple gesture but can be really powerful in helping you to acknowledge that they are no longer physically there but still very much thought about. This small action may relieve a little guilt that you are trying to have a nice time, whilst knowing they aren’t there, and by giving their memory some time this may lift that guilt and your spirit a little.
Don’t rub out their memory
If you have decorations on the tree or around the home that includes their name or family members, don’t keep it in the storage box or hide it, or indeed feel too sad about putting it on display. They were an important part of your life at that time and as a moment of those times, that decoration is a keepsake of cherished times. Try to reposition thoughts and remember the best times when bringing out decorations that may be painful.
Was there a Christmas when you were all together and had a great time? Is there a favourite photo of your loved one at Christmas. Get it out, frame it, show it off, ensure others see their smiling face and whilst it may bring a lump to everyone’s throat, the positive memories will bring comfort as will the feeling of familiarity and love.
Doing it for the kids
Whilst kids are resilient, their grief often runs deep and can be hidden so to encourage them to embrace their feelings of missing a lost loved one, is always a good thing, but especially at Christmas. Gifts from their ‘guardian angel’ or to help them remember someone they are grieving for are always well received. Memory Cushions or Keepsake Bears made from clothes from their loved one are fabulous ways to have a personal gift but also something tactile to cuddle and keep close.
There is no getting away from the fact that Christmas in particular is an especially emotional time when you are missing someone. Whilst no day is any different, the grief never goes away, Christmas festivities can often make is acutely real that they are sadly missing. Embracing the grief and finding ways to ease the pain, will go a little way to bring a little comfort and get you through the festive period.
Helen says: "I miss my Granma every day, in so many seemingly tiny, insignificant ways that remind me she’s no longer around, but on Christmas Day especially, I’m acutely aware she is missing. We used to laugh at her cocked cracker hat, we’d rib her about having her drinks lined up and then have extra brandy in the cream on her Christmas pudding and she’d ALWAYS buy me a chocolate orange. Every year she'd be the centre of our world. I have a bauble on our tree dedicated to her that is always at the front and the candle sticks on our dinner table are the ones she bought us for our wedding. She’s always there in my head and heart but feels especially close with these precious keepsakes on Christmas Day."
Photo credit Varun Singh Bhati