Coping With That First Christmas After Losing A Precious Friend Or Relative
Loss, bereavement, death – aspects of life that a Funeral Director moves through every day. That’s our job and our privilege to serve – at Jennings, the logistics of arranging a funeral and being highly organised professionally is very important. At all our Dublin branches of Jennings Funeral Directors, great value is placed on care for every aspect of your funeral, flowers, music, the wording of your notice for RIP.IE and the newspaper.
Our attention to detail means that the family in grief and loss can be assured of dignity and deep meaning in their farewell tribute for their loved one.
Funeral Director’s role: sympathy, empathy, awareness.
But being vigilant with the funeral arrangements themselves does not mean that we are immune to the truth of loss and trauma. We see that every day too. A good Funeral Director is at all times highly sensitive to the burden of shock and distress endured by the bereaved family – in Jennings, that sensitivity is part of all our encounters with the grieving family.
In that first year of loss, people notice that they might be getting stronger but tend to regress during holiday times. At Jennings, the grief counsellors we come in contact with assure us that this is very normal. Grief is not a linear process – approaching that first Christmas, it can feel like taking one step forward and two steps back, but take hope from the fact that the healing will happen despite this as we move through the difficult days after a funeral.
The importance of self-care and structure
Here are some tips we have compiled from observations on what can help a family to get through Christmas after the loss of a loved one.
- Don’t feel guilty if you feel you’re not up to much at Christmas after a year of loss and bereavement.
- Christmas is traditionally a time of giving. But if our batteries are so low from loss and grief we must focus on self-care so we get back to being there for others.
- If you’re dreading Christmas, make a bit of a plan. A decision about how you might spend the day. That generally makes a person feel better than no plan at all.
- Your peace of mind matters – the cost of taking on too much might be stressful. Don’t feel pressure to push yourself.
- Having a plan in place, remember that you’re free to change your mind at any time.A Christmas related decision made right after a funeral in September might not feel right in early December, but you can always change your mind completely. That’s your call.
- Hotel break: At Jennings, we often hear accounts of how people manage the first Christmas after a painful loss. Hotels for many years have specialised in all-inclusive Christmas packages – and families who have never been drawn to a hotel Christmas often find it the ideal solution offering a completely different type of seasonal break.
- Coolock or Camden Town? Some people are very clear about needing to get away for that first Christmas; they would find it unbearable to be in the same landscape and environment so deeply associated with their loss.
- If you have that kind of clarity, then you’re probably best to go with the flow of that. A change of scenery can work like a coping tool in itself.
- It’s personal for everyone – because for others – having to adjust to a different place would feel stressful and make that first Christmas after a funeral more unbearable. In our linked article (Coping with Christmas in the Wake of Bereavement, see link here), Stephen could not have crossed the city, never mind book a flight – but he found a good solution which worked for him and got him through that first painful Christmas.
Children after bereavement.
- After a family bereavement, it’s very important to involve children in the Christmas plans.
- Children grieve – in their own way. Bereavement is such an enormous concept to take in that they naturally tend to move in and out of loss – or feeling that loss.
- Christmas is such a special time for a child that no matter who has passed away, they may see Christmas as an untouchable joy and so expect everything to proceed as normal.
- Reassure them that it’s ok to enjoy their Christmas with the same sense of special times that means so much to them.
- It’s ok for you to feel some Christmas cheer no matter how much you miss your dearly departed relative. Grief comes and goes, it’s healing to bond with a child, help a small daughter choose songs for her new video on her own Christmas SelfieMic toy.
- You can also create a calm inclusive space for a kind of ongoing discussion about how to make Christmas special even though their Grandad won’t be here. Ask if it makes sense that maybe for this year, Christmas dinner at their Nana’s might be nice.
- Don’t keep all the focus on what’s been lost. Your child will be just as keen to know that Santa’s letter has been posted. A Tiny Treasure Baby Doll can be a beautiful distraction.
- Use mood brightening ideas like Christmas colours – for example – as an adult you might like to scale back a bit on decorations. But ask a child to help you frame a beloved relative’s photo frame with holly sprigs or red berries.
- If you plan a seasonal visit to the cemetery – involvement can work wonders – for example by asking a child for advice about suitable flowers or plants for Christmas that you can bring as a gift if and when you go to visit your beloved relatives’ grave.
- .By the very same token, do keep in mind that some people never visit the grave. Cemeteries were never supposed to be a source of guilt. As an experienced Jennings Funeral Director will always point out – what matters is what feels right for you and for your child.
Keep it Simple:
On many levels keeping it simple is a good coping tool for people in mourning.
Christmas can be stressful even if you have not been involved in a year full of hospitals and trauma and the difficult business of funeral arrangements. It’s quite possible that a person can’t even contemplate the usual array of decorating, extensive cooking, gift purchasing and all those trimmings we associate with a busy family Christmas.
A scaled down simple plan might help.
Some people are ok around putting up a tree but the thoughts of baking are impossible.
Lucy popped in to Jennings Funeral Directors on the Springdale Road in Raheny to enquire about an extra Cremation Urn for her late mother as the family were hoping to share the ashes.
Lucy told us how she found it immensely healing to create a sugared icing snow scene on the traditional Christmas Cake but that untangling the tree lights nearly unhinged her altogether.
Allowing ourselves to grieve is its’s own tribute to our dearly departed friend.
The experience of losing a precious beloved friend is so painful and full of trauma – and yet grief is oddly natural and as it should be and part of life. As human beings, we feel the loss of a loved one deeply – and in a (painful) way it makes sense that we honour the person who has passed, by acknowledging how much it hurts to lose them.
Jennings Funeral Directors know the importance of self-care after bereavement:
But no matter how bad we feel on any day, self-care is so important in times of grief. In modern times we sometimes buy into the notion that we’re fine all the time – or we should be – and if we’re feeling shaky we don’t let that show. But in fact it is really healthy to acknowledge our own fragility and frailty, especially around emotional times like Christmas. Anniversaries and birthdays can be fraught with memories, but Christmas can be very painful indeed. We hope our list of copings tips help in some small way. Jennings Funeral Directors wish you peace, strength, restfulness and healing during this time of loss and passing.