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Comfort and Joy

Christmas can be an especially difficult time of year when the ‘empty chair’ at the table is particularly poignant – regardless of how far people are on their grief journey.

Furthermore, many will not be able to share Christmas in the usual way with family and friends and their grief will potentially be compounded by isolation and loneliness.

Therefore, this Christmas, more than ever – we need to consciously plan any festive celebrations in light of what challenges we have faced this year and how we may be feeling as we approach 2021.

I wanted to offer some simple advice for coping with bereavement over the Christmas holidays.

  • Decide which long-held traditions you want to observe this year and others that you don’t. There is nothing wrong in avoiding particularly poignant markers in time if you can’t face them.
  • Be organised and try not to leave everything to the last minute as this will help to avoid any unnecessary stress.
  • Make plans with your Christmas bubble that are flexible so that you have the freedom to do what is right for you without worrying about offending anyone.
  • Be honest with yourself and others about your needs and wishes as people can only respect and understand your feelings if they know what they are.
  • Remember, it is OK to be upset. Tears are a healthy way to express feelings of sadness and are not a sign of weakness.  By the same token, it is equally OK to enjoy Christmas without guilt.  Grief is a deeply personal and unpredictable emotion.
  • Find ways to include your loved one in the day. Perhaps light a candle, talk about memories or observe one of their favourite traditions.  It is often better to openly acknowledge that someone is missing and the sadness that this brings rather than trying to carry on as usual.

Taking time to remember a loved one in the approach to Christmas is often a healthy way to face grief and Wathall’s is holding a virtual Celebration of Remembrance and Hope this year.

In normal times, we welcome more than 800 people to Derby Cathedral every December for the service.  These include members of our Dandelions Bereavement Support groups who continue to meet virtually in the absence of monthly get-togethers in Derby and Ashbourne.

This year we will be launching a pre-recorded event at 6.30pm on Thursday December 10th 2020.  This is an open invitation for anyone to join us at this time or to re-visit the website as we approach Christmas to watch at whatever time suits you.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a peaceful Christmas and to invite anyone who is struggling on their grief journey to find ongoing help through our free Dandelions Bereavement Support services.

Helen Wathall MBE

Managing Director and Fifth Generation at Wathall’s Funeral Directors in Derby, Alvaston, Ashbourne, Borrowash and Burton-on-Trent