‘If you love, you will eventually grieve’: How to comfort a friend who has experienced loss
‘If you love, you will eventually grieve’: How to comfort a friend who has experienced...

Lauren Heskin

The weekend shopping fix: game-changing beauty and joyful planters
The weekend shopping fix: game-changing beauty and joyful planters

Holly O'Neill

Denim Daze: shop the shoot from the new issue of IMAGE
Denim Daze: shop the shoot from the new issue of IMAGE

Holly O'Neill

16 stylish table lamps to brighten up any corner in your home
16 stylish table lamps to brighten up any corner in your home

Megan Burns

The reality of grief: ‘One day he went to work and never came home’
The reality of grief: ‘One day he went to work and never came home’

Amanda Cassidy

Sleeping in separate beds and other ‘alternative’ practices that help these relationships thrive
Sleeping in separate beds and other ‘alternative’ practices that help these relationships thrive

Michelle Heffernan

Quiet office, at-home gym or a space for the kids: Here’s why so many people are installing garden rooms right now
Quiet office, at-home gym or a space for the kids: Here’s why so many people...

IMAGE Interiors & Living

Image / Self / Real-life Stories / Relationships

Grief at Christmas: ‘We won’t ever forget him but we will try to cope without him by doing things a little differently’


by Amanda Cassidy
29th Dec 2020
blank

To be grieving during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year can alienate, writes Amanda Cassidy 


Being the gloom against the twinkle of fairy lights compounds grief. I know this too well.

Sadness is heightened when you have to cut the cheerful Christmas wreaths that wind up the stairs to make way for the stretcher to carry your father to the hospital.

The Christmas decorations in the special family waiting room felt like a mockery of our sorrow as we were told “sorry, no, there was nothing we could do, massive heart attack”. The cheap tinsel blurred by tears.

At least we had plenty of boxes of biscuits for the hundreds of callers, we thought perversely. But taking down the Christmas baubles he’d hung happily himself just days before was heart-wrenchingly unforgettable.

Tainted

But no matter when we are hit by inevitable grief, out of the blue or otherwise, the festivities of Christmas can seem especially trite, empty, lonely.

Emily lost her husband two years ago. She says that Christmas, for her, has been tainted.

“When I’m having my really bad moments, I just keep saying to myself ‘you can’t bring them back, so you have to just feel lucky that you had that wonderful person in your life for that length of time’. But Christmas is hard, harder because everyone is trying to make it such a Christmas movie-type event. It is very isolating.

“Some days I can’t even think of him without breaking down. Other days, we have to tell ourselves that life has to go on. We will find our happiness again in a different way.”

Pressure

Head of Education at the Irish Hospice Foundation, Orla Keegan believes that when people are nearing the end of their lives, Christmas focuses the mind.

“This time of the year becomes very poignant. People are typically projecting into plans for next year and there is a stark awareness that this could be the last Christmas with a family member. Trying to make it as perfect and as right as they can, brings pressure.

On the other hand, Christmas gives you time. People are not at work, it is the gift of time to be together as a family. It brings it back to what is really the essence of Christmas, what’s really important, instead of what you buy or what you will eat.”

When it comes to palliative care, it is about living until the end, engaging in life, which is why Orla explains that at Christmas hospitals and hospices are actually not as sombre an atmosphere as people think. “People go to great lengths to make this time as flexible and as comfortable as possible.”

In order to take back control over the first Christmas since someone has been bereaved, Orla says there are some simple things you can do.

“Try to keep things simple. It is hard to avoid Christmas, especially if there are children involved. Try to engage in a way that allows you to dip in and out of things. Maybe don’t do a full Christmas dinner but still get together as a family. Spend some time thinking about that person and talking about them, remembering the good times and having a laugh about them.”

Orla says: “Try not to avoid it and don’t avoid friends or others who might be going through their first Christmas without someone they love. People can feel awkward, they don’t know what to say. But encourage the bereaved to talk about those who died. Offer to visit them for half an hour, making concrete offers rather than a vague text asking if they need anything. Keep asking them for a walk, a coffee — eventually, someone will say yes. It is an isolating time of the year, bear that in mind.”

Isolating

After her husband’s death, Emily couldn’t retain the same traditions without him. She said the Edward-shaped hole was just too big. “We started changing things up, we went away for Christmas for the first time. We felt we couldn’t continue the same traditions without him. His absence was too notable. We aren’t trying to forget him, we are trying to cope without him by doing things a little differently.”

And ultimately that is what we are all trying to do, to find the shreds of happiness wherever we can, despite the bad times. The best we can do is to live our lives as fully as possible. Adapt to survive.

Let’s raise a glass to all those we love who can’t be with us and to remember the joy they brought to our lives.

Image via Pexels.com 

Note: This article first appeared on IMAGE.ie in December 2019


Read more: Our fertility struggle: ‘I never hid intervention like it was a secret I was ashamed of’

Read moreEstrangement, grief and the holidays: ‘Not everyone has that big around-the-table-together family Christmas’

Read moreAsk a therapist: ‘My depression always comes back at Christmas and I can’t talk to anyone about it’

Also Read

Grace O’Rourke
REAL-LIFE STORIES
‘As soon as we were off the bus, we were ordered to strip to our underwear in the freezing cold’

There are no women in the elite Irish Army Ranger...

By Lizzie Gore-Grimes

blank
HEALTH & WELLNESS, REAL-LIFE STORIES
Living with migraines: ‘It’s a chronic disease… I will retreat to a dark room for hours on end’

By Jennifer McShane

blank
ADVICE
Niamh Ennis: ‘The deep grief and loss I’d experienced had closed me off from actually allowing love in’

By Niamh Ennis

blank
HEALTH & WELLNESS
6 steps to improve your gut health this January, according to a gastroenterologist

Gastroenterologist and gut expert Professor Barbara Ryan (@Thegutexperts) on why...

By IMAGE

endometriosis
HEALTH & WELLNESS, REAL-LIFE STORIES
‘I had to leave Ireland to get my endometriosis treated’

For far too long, the concerns of women have fallen...

By IMAGE

blank
ADVICE, HEALTH & WELLNESS, PARENTHOOD
Finding joy in the fourth trimester: resting and recuperating

By IMAGE

blank
premium REAL-LIFE STORIES
Anxiety disorder crisis: how much are we missing hugs?

It's been nearly a year since we kissed our friends, hugged our grannies or simply touched someone outside our 'bubble'. Filomena Kaguako asks, what will the long lasting effect of this lack of physical interaction be?

By Filomena Kaguako

We are, we are constantly told, living in “unprecedented times” but there is something very familiar about the way some aspects of this crisis have played out.
premium BUSINESS, MONEY, HEALTH & WELLNESS
The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19 currently has no women sitting on it. Why?

When it emerged when week that the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19 has no women sitting on it, many were disappointed but not surprised.

By Lynn Enright