Surviving Christmas

When your baby has died, Christmas can be unbearably difficult. The whole world seems to be celebrating, everybody appears to be obsessed with preparations, which seem to go on for weeks. These confront us at every turn - in shops and streets, on TV, radio, in magazines. We can often feel isolated by our grief.

As we contemplate Christmas – we wonder how we will survive. It is normal for parents to feel they just want to ’cancel’ Christmas. 

As we contemplate Christmas - we wonder how we will survive. It is normal for parents to feel they just want to ’cancel’ Christmas. It is a time to be with family, and the enormous gap left by the death of our child is intensified. 

Christmas cannot be the same as it was because our family is not complete. We may find the anticipation and stress of what we ‘should’ be doing very hard to deal with. Many bereaved parents find the run up to Christmas – with all the accompanying anticipation– can be more difficult to cope with than the actual day itself.

Ways to Remember Someone at Christmas - Try making your friend or relative part of your day through your Christmas decorations. Some people like to light a special candle near a picture of their loved one. Or you could hang something of theirs on the Christmas tree or hang up a decoration including their name or picture.

 Talking about someone who has died can be comforting. If you are meeting with friends and family at Christmas it can be a really nice time to take it in turns to share a memory or story about the person you’ve lost.

 If you’ve still got a lot to say to the person who’s died, try writing them a letter. Letter writing helps you organise your thoughts and put into words how you’ve been feeling..

Some people don’t send cards at Christmas anymore. Others like to include their child’s name - for example - “Love from X x and x and always remembering xx”. You can also ask others to include a similar sentiment on any cards they send you. A small gesture which can really lift our hearts.

Supporting yourself - These experiences are completely normal. Although people often tell us they feel like they are ‘going mad’ it’s not a sign of mental illness. It may take you some time to understand what has happened but give yourself time. 

Try to make sure you’re getting plenty of rest and making time for things that relax you. 

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 involving your child - attend a candle lighting service with other bereaved parents; spend time at a special memorial place on your own or with others; make or buy a special card or decoration for your child.

Spend time with people who understand. Avoid those who don’t. Be gentle with yourself.

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