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Advice for coping with bereavement this Christmas

The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) is advising the bereaved to plan ahead and keep things simple as a way of coping with their loss this Christmas.

Every year 29,000 people die in Ireland and approximately ten people are profoundly affected by each death. This equates to 290,000 newly bereaved people annually.

While the first Christmas is particularly poignant, each Christmas without the person who has died will have its own challenges.

Dr Susan Delaney, Clinical Psychologist and Bereavement Services Manager at the IHF said putting some structure in place for the holiday period can help.

“There is something about Christmas that intensifies all our emotions. Few people go through the festive season without some sadness, even if they have not been bereaved. It is a bittersweet time when people are reminded the losses in their life, be in through bereavement, absent family, or something else. It is important that people suffering loss remind themselves they are grieving and are gentle with themselves. Christmas day is only one day and a little planning can help people to get through it.”

Dr Delaney offers some simple suggestions to make Christmas following a bereavement a little easier.

  • Acknowledge that Christmas will be different and while you may wish to keep some traditions, others may have to be changed or dropped altogether.
  • Begin a new tradition in memory of the person. You could light a candle to represent them at the table, or make a toast in their memory.
  • Grieving is tiring so plan some quiet time for yourself. Have a lie down, or take a short walk. If you accept invitations give yourself the option of changing your mind or leaving early if you need to.
  • Accept offers of help. Also let people know if you are comfortable talking about the person that has died. If you don’t mention their name others might presume you don’t want them to mention it either.
  • If there are children in the family ask them for ideas on how to spend the day. Young children may need to be assured that Santa is still coming and that it is OK to enjoy Christmas even if people are sad.

Dr Delaney concluded: “The grief journey takes time and most people experience days where they feel OK, and other days where they are ambushed by their grief. If you have been bereaved this year, this may well be a very sad Christmas for you, but in the midst of pain and sadness there can be moments of joy to be savoured; try to notice them.”

For more information on coping with bereavement click here

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