Coping with loss at Christmas

2013-12-19 00:00

CHRISTMAS is often a very difficult time for people who have experienced the loss of someone close to them. I am writing this from the perspective of losing a child, but it can apply to the loss of anyone close to you.

How can we get excited about a special family time when there is this huge gaping hole where our child used to be? How can we try to be joyful when we feel like part of us has been physically ripped from our bodies.

How can we be joyful when we feel totally broken? We feel as if every day is grey, without energy to do even the most basic things.

• Do we feel like putting up a Christmas tree? No.

• Do we have the energy to shop for gifts? No.

• Do we want to be surrounded by people who can’t understand how we are feeling? No.

• Do we want to plaster smiles on our faces and pretend to be happy? No.

• Do we want to go to an emotive church service? No.

• Do we want to go through all the same traditional exciting activities that are repeated every Christmas — those things special just to our family? No.

The above things are too painful to bear because our hearts are too vulnerable, tender and sore. We feel so fragile, as if we could shatter into a million pieces if we have to endure one more painful activity.

So what can we do to make it better for ourselves?

We can realise that others who have not experienced a loss cannot possibly understand how we are feeling, acknowledge this and treat them with compassion.

But, having said that, accept that they will try to make us feel better and most of the attempts won’t work. But let us recognise that they are trying, although they don’t know what to do. Before our loss, we may well have done exactly the same things. So try not to be hurt, patronising or judgmental towards them.

What else can we do to guard our hearts and make sure we weather Christmas?

You may like some ideas and dislike others below, so just take the ones you like, and discard the rest.

• You can go somewhere totally different for Christmas Day or the holidays, where you have not been before, so that you are not confronted with painful memories of previous happier years.

• We love to talk about our children who died, with laughter and tears, so bring your deceased loved one into the day. The worst thing is for everyone to pretend that our angel children never existed. We honour their memories by talking about them.

• You can light a candle next to a photograph of them, so their light is still felt on Christmas day.

• You can change the routine of Christmas Day completely, and not do the things you have always done. It is too heartbreaking to do familiar things without our special souls with us.

• You can place a small picture of them somewhere on the Christmas tree. They are angels after all.

• Don’t do anything you feel you shouldn’t do, only do the things you want to do.You must follow your heart and do only that which you feel capable of doing. Don’t feel “pushed” into doing what is too painful, especially if others think it “will be so good for you”.

• Never be embarrassed by your tears. We miss so deeply because we loved so deeply. Our tears honour the special love we have for our children.

• Take time at the beginning of the day just to have quiet time to honour your memories, to talk to your loved one and feel that you have spent some quality time with only him or her. Honour them by connecting with them, in your own special way, saying what you would like to say if they were still alive.

• Write a letter to them to be read out (or not) on Christmas Eve just to the immediate family. This often releases a lot of pent-up emotion, and allows for a slightly more peaceful Christmas Day. We found this to be exceptionally healing.

• Visualise how Christmas Day will be, and know that it will be different, so try to prepare yourself for the different feelings you may have, and the way others may treat you differently. Don’t expect that it will be the same; it will never be the same again.

And finally, a message of hope: the joy of Christmas does eventually return. I know it may not feel like that now. Christmas will never be the same, but as our hearts heal, we learn to let the joy in again.

And then we feel the joy even more intensely, because we have felt such devastating pain.

On Christmas Day, our thoughts, prayers, love and care are specially with all who have suffered losses.

• Cherri Forsyth is a life coach and has written this article on behalf of the Angel Mums Support Group.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.