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Advice for Christmas – Traditions & Remembrance

There are many traditions around Christmas, each one unique to the family involved. One of the first traditions you may come across is putting up the Christmas tree. There is no denying, its going to be difficult, but do not deny yourself the opportunity because of this. It can be an important part of working through your grief, allowing yourself the gift of tears. It may be a good idea to not do this alone, so who can help? I was very fortunate that our ‘empty chair’ was not a great lover of decorating the Christmas tree, but that doesn’t mean it was any easier. Traditions can be a great reminder of someone’s absence, even if they weren’t directly involved.

The next tradition you are likely to come across that will surely be arriving through your door soon is the Christmas card. Should you send them? Should you forget it for this year? This is a decision that you will have to make but the world certainly will not end if you don’t send any cards this year. I decided very quickly that I wasn’t going to be sending any cards this Christmas. I made my family and friends aware of the reasons and they were all very understanding. However, it didn’t stop people sending them to our family which was something I was not expecting.

So, while deliberating the decision of to send or not to send, you need to prepare yourself for when you start to receive. There may be cards arriving addressed to you and the loved one who has passed away from someone who hasn’t heard about the death but also cards addressed to you without your loved one’s name on at all. Neither are easy to open, fact. Even the cards addressed to us “and family” were a tough cookie to swallow. As the years went on, it has gotten a little easier, only after accepting that other people’s lives moved on pretty much after the funeral and the lives of those closest to the person who has died are pretty much in limbo, I began to forgive. Forgive my friends and family for how they addressed cards, but also forgiving myself for being so irrational about how my friends and family addressed said cards. Grief plays a funny game.

The last major tradition in most families is Christmas Dinner. Facing the reality that there will be an empty chair at the dining table is hard to accept. Instead of trying to forget that there is a special someone missing, why not acknowledge the raw emotions by making them a part of the day. Placing a balloon in the empty chair, everyone sharing their favourite memories or joining up with another family in the same boat where you can help each other through the day.

Realise that is isn’t going to be easy, instead, try and do things that are important and special to you. If something doesn’t work out this year, you can change it and try again next year. The first year we had Christmas together and we made it that there were no empty chairs by sitting on a bench. We spoke often of those who were no longer with us, especially when it came to discuss that year’s terrible jokes that came out of the crackers. The second year we all did different things. This year, I am cooking my first Christmas dinner for my family and we have invited a dear friend, who lost his wife, to join us. The faces round the table may not be the same as what they were four years ago, no matter how much we want them to be, but that’s not to say we can’t have a meaningful Christmas.

If you would like to speak to a member of our Bereavement Support Team, please call 01332 345268