How you as a grieving parent can help yourself AND your family
- Listen to your body and allow it to rest when needed. Loss drains the body of energy and if you try to keep up with all the things you usually do at Christmas time, it may just be too much. It may seem impossible but getting adequate sleep will help you cope with each day.
- Avoid ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ – you don’t have to do it all.
- Ask for and accept help.
- Be honest with your feelings. Give yourself permission to cry. Often us parents are so focused on helping and supporting our children that we neglect to look after ourselves. Creating an opportunity to reflect on your loss and to express your emotions can help relieve some tension.
- Try to maintain healthy habits, such as eating certain foods or going for walks.
- Recognise that this Christmas is different – it’s ok not to try and do everything the way you have always done it.
- If you find you are enjoying yourself a little then embrace those feelings. It is not a sign that you are missing your loved one any less. Grieving comes in waves as our bodies cannot cope with such strong emotions 24 hours a day.
- Although a life may have ended, relationships live on and can be remembered and celebrated at Christmas time. Each family will differ and some may like to set a place for their departed loved one at the table, and others may like to toast him or her with a favourite drink.
How to help children process their feelings of loss
- Regardless of whether the child has lost a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend or pet, allow the child to select something to help remember their loved one. Children may like to buy or make an ornament that provides a memory, and hang it on the Christmas tree.
- Don’t hide your sadness. Showing your children that it is ok to feel sad and to cry is letting them know that it is ok for them to have those feelings too.
- Provide your child with a journal in which they can write, draw or stick photos.
- Let your children have a photo or memento to carry around with them. It may help them feel closer to their loved one.
- Play your loved ones favourite music and dance with your children. This may lead to a discussion of your children’s favourite memories of their loved one.
- Although participating in the usual family traditions may not be high on your agenda, it is important for children to have the warmth and familiarity that traditions provide. If it is too much for you to help decorate the tree, then perhaps a friend or relative could stand in for you. Perhaps try to keep the two or three traditions that you feel are within your capacity to cope with.
- Start one or two new traditions.
- Light special candles on Christmas day. Your children may like to select them and arrange them in a special place.
- If you hang stockings as a tradition then include the missing family member’s stocking. Children may like to draw pictures or put little trinkets in there.
Getting through this holiday period may seem like an impossible task. But each day will come and each day will pass, and focusing on the present moment may help you from feeling too overwhelmed with thinking about what is ahead. There are people who want to help you – please ask and accept!