Special occasions can be very difficult for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, but there are things that the bereaved can do to make things a little easier, the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) has advised as Christmas Day draws near.
People who are bereaved should plan ahead and keep things simple, as a way of coping with their loss this Christmas, according to Dr Susan Delaney, clinical psychologist and bereavement services manager at the IHF.
A recent IHF survey on attitudes to death and dying in Ireland revealed that 53% of the adult population suffered bereavement in the last two years – that is more than one and a half a million people who will be missing a family member or friend this festive season.
“There is something about Christmas that intensifies all our emotions. The hype begins in October and builds up in the weeks before Christmas, often making make it a very difficult time for those of us who are bereaved,” said Dr Delaney.
“The first Christmas without a significant person can be very difficult and simple things like putting up the Christmas tree and setting the table with one less place can lead to upset and loneliness. It is a bittersweet time and it is important that people suffering loss remind themselves they are grieving and are gentle with themselves. Christmas day is only one day and a little planning can help people to get through it.”
“While it may well be a sad Christmas for those who are suffering loss, small, unexpected things may lift spirits briefly: carol singers, the excitement of children in the family, or receiving a thoughtful card from someone who is thinking about you. In the midst of pain and sadness there can be moments of joy to be savoured; try to notice them,” she said.
Broadcaster and business woman, Norah Casey, who launched the Irish Hospice Foundation’s Never Forgotten Christmas appeal, spoke of how she and her teenage son, Dara, remember her late husband, Richard, and other deceased friends and family, at Christmas time.
“Myself and Dara consciously remember Richard on Christmas Day. We visit the tree planted in his memory in the Phoenix Park, we raise a glass to him and we put his favourite ornament on the Christmas tree. We also give a gift in his memory each year,” she said.
Norah and many others have left personal messages and donated to the IHF in memory of their loved ones on www.neverforgotten.ie.