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The countdown to Christmas has officially begun, but for people who have been bereaved, Christmas can be a very difficult and traumatic time of the year.

The UK’s largest bereavement charity, Cruse Bereavement Care is expecting high call volumes to its National Helpline during the Christmas period. In November 2018 it saw an 11 per cent increase in calls and predicts it will be just as busy over Christmas and New Year.

Every year the charity extends its opening hours during the festive holiday and keeps its National Helpline open during the Christmas Bank Holidays to support people who have been bereaved.

This week Cruse Bereavement Care has launched its Caring at Christmas campaign to ensure it has enough volunteers and funds in place to keep the National Helpline open over the festive period.

Andy Langford, Chief Operating Officer at Cruse Bereavement Care, said: “Christmas can be a very painful time of year for someone who have been bereaved, whether it is your first year without a loved one, or of you were bereaved a long time ago, Christmas can be a reminder of that loss.

“We know that facing Christmas alone, or whilst grieving, can be a daunting prospect. Knowing there is someone to talk to can offer people some comfort and this is why we keep our National Helpline open over the Christmas period so we can be there to support people that are struggling.”

Stella Kandinsky daughter, Laura, died from substance misuse two years ago at the age of 30 years-old. Stella is bringing up her daughter’s son, Blake who is three years old.

Stella said: “The first Christmas without Laura was just absolutely unbearable. We were very close, I was a single parent from when she was 12 years-old and basically we said, every special occasion, like Christmas we would always be together, even if it was just for a few hours.

“To remember my daughter, Blake and I always write a Christmas card to her. I tell him what mummy liked and he draws a picture in the card with scribbles and we choose the script in the card.”

“I am so thankful for the support of Cruse Bereavement Care, I really don’t think I would have been able to cope without my wonderful bereavement supporter, Sue.”

More information about Cruse Bereavement Care and its Caring at Christmas campaign can be found on its website here: www.cruse.org.uk/christmas.