Here at Cruse, we know Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for those who are grieving. In this blog, we've asked Vicky Anning and the team from WAY (Widowed and Young) to share their advice on ways to get through Christmas after a bereavement.
The first Christmas after I was widowed passed by in a complete blur. I wanted to make sure that my daughter – then two – had a magical time. But I also wanted to curl up in a ball and pretend that Christmas wasn’t happening. I still remember to this day the heavy, hot tears that rolled down my cheeks when a well-meaning relative gifted me a carefully-labelled ‘teapot for one.'
I didn’t need any more reminders that I would be waking up and sipping tea on my own every morning instead of with my 39-year-old husband. Needless to say, the teapot went straight to the nearest charity shop. The only thing that could console me at the time was speaking to other members of the charity WAY Widowed and Young. Immediately I found a community of people who’d lost their partner at a young age too and who understood exactly how I felt.
WAY members have been a constant source of advice, support, strength, inspiration understanding and friendship to me over the years – helping me to get through difficult milestones like Christmas, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, holidays...
So it felt fitting to turn to some fellow members for their advice about navigating Christmas when you’ve lost a loved one. I hope their tips will help you get through the festive season too.
12 Tips on Getting Through Christmas After a Bereavement
1. Keep busy
“There is no right or wrong – throw yourself into (socially distanced) festivities and stay super busy or ignore it all and treat it like every other day or anything in between! Wear the paper hats and pull crackers, eat chocolate all day, go to work, go for a walk do whatever YOU feel is right for YOU. Don’t be pressured into things you just can’t face because you think you should – you have to make YOU a priority.” Natalie.
2. Create new traditions
“If you are dreading it, the build up will probably be worse than the actual day. Do whatever you need to/want to. Create new traditions. If there is no-one who will buy you that special present, buy it for yourself and wrap it up so you don’t feel left out.” Suzanne
3. Don't bottle it up
“Don’t bottle your emotions up... find a way of bringing your loved ones into the festive period. Talk about previous Christmases – remembering the good times helps with the current times.” Christopher
4. Be a grinch if you want to
“Just remember it is only two days. You are totally allowed to be a grinch and be miserable too. My first Christmas was six weeks after I was widowed. We had a steak dinner, stayed in PJs, watched non-Christmas programmes on Netflix and Amazon all day. No decorations or tree – just doing what we wanted.” Gary
5. Know you'll get through it
“Last year was my first and I didn’t put a tree up. I just wanted to be able to go home and shut Christmas out. This year I have gone out and bought a small tree to put on my table rather than putting a big tree up just for me. I will be ok as I know I got through last year when I never thought I could.” Diane
6. Spend it with people who understand
“If you do decide to spend Christmas with other people, like family or friends, make sure they understand that you might have sad moments and quiet moods... then, if they hit, there’s no expectation or pressure to ‘act normal’. Corrina
7. Treat yourself
“I gather things together to give myself at Christmas – I have a lidded box and a slip a few things in as I go along. By no means does this make up for grief and loss, but there is a care package of small treats – from me to me – to help me through the season.” Nicky
8. Find ways to remember them
"I bought a candle the first year that had a connection to my husband. We lit it on Christmas morning and it stayed lit all day... It felt like involving him somehow.” Veronica
9. Allow yourself to enjoy it
“Don’t feel guilty if you still enjoy Christmas! We always loved Christmas and Chris died in December while we were away visiting Christmas markets, but I have still always had the same celebrations we always had and have enjoyed them. Yes, there are moments of sadness that he isn’t there with us to enjoy it. But predominantly it is still a happy time for our family...” Sarah
10. Know there's no one way to celebrate
“You mind find comfort in creating new traditions, doing old ones or not doing any of them. There is no right or wrong way to do the festive period after losing your love.” Aimee
11. Keep it simple
“Christmas can be built up too much, so I kept it as simple as possible and still try to do that six years later. There have been crazy party Christmas days and there have been more lonely ones too with just me and the boys. This year I’ll have one goal – enjoy seeing family and the rest doesn’t matter.” Chris
12. Take one day at a time
“In terms of feelings, simply be and let your feelings flow. At first, things will seem so dark but there will be flickers of light. Take one day at a time. It’s 15 months since my Jo passed away and I’m not in the same place as I was then. I am slowly evolving, slowly adapting to this life now.” Steven
WAY is a UK charity that offers a peer-to-peer support network for anyone who's lost a partner before their 51st birthday – married or not, with or without children, whatever their sexual orientation. WAY has 3,600 members across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
WAY Up offers peer support for people in the UK who’ve been widowed in their 50s, 60s and beyond.
WAY will be sharing more tips from WAY members throughout the Christmas period in their #12WAYSofChristmas social media campaign.
Find WAY on Facebook @WAYwidowedandyoung