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11 Dec


It’s the most wonderful time of the year… But what about when it’s actually the most difficult time of the year?

This week’s ‘Wednesday for Parents’ deals with the difficult topic of how to cope with Christmas when you’re bereaved and grieving – particularly how to access resources to help children to cope at Christmas time after the death of a loved one. Above anything else, I want to emphasise that this post is only intended as a list of resources – everyone grieves in different ways and what works for one person, mightn’t work for another.

The main resource I’m going to focus on today is the Irish Hospice Foundation’s publication ‘Coping with Christmas when you’re bereaved’. The Irish Hospice Foundation have published a number of important resources through the section on their site that helps to cope with bereavement – you can access that part of the site here. They give information on how to help someone who is bereaved and how to cope with bereavement yourself.

Some tips they give for coping with bereavement are:

  • Be gentle with yourself – your energy may be low for some time so don’t place too many demands on yourself.
  • Look after your physical health, try to eat healthily and get some light exercise.
  • Make sure you get enough rest and sleep.
  • Seek out support from people who are willing to listen.
  • Allow yourself to experience the feelings which come with bereavement even if, at times, they are difficult.
  • Don’t rush things.

I can also recommend the selection of leaflets on the Irish Hospice Foundation website here.

Rainbows Ireland are an organisation specifically to help children to cope with major changes in the family, whether bereavement, divorce or separation. They have a wide selection of resources – the definitive one is ‘Children and Loss’ which can be read here. This one is a bit text-heavy but full of excellent information.

Barnardos have excellent resources for helping children to cope with death. You can view the parent’s version here and the book to discuss with a child here. The children’s booklet is a child-friendly way of discussing all the questions that your child may have. They’ve also published other booklets to help parents discuss bereavement with children and with teenagers. It explains possible reactions from the child/teenager and how to help them to cope.

The main suggestions given by the Irish Hospice Foundation on how to cope with Christmas after bereavement are:

  • Plan ahead – ask yourself which traditions you can cope with and which you may need to change, even if only for this year.
  • Keep things simple and discuss with those closest to you how they’d like to mark the holiday.
  • Begin new traditions if you think it might help. Some people begin traditions such as visiting the grave on Christmas Eve and putting holly or ivy on it. Others light a candle or remember the person in a toast at the dinner table. Some choose to make a donation to a charity in the deceased person’s name.
  • Let the people around you know if you are comfortable talking about the person who died. If you do not mention their name, others may assume that you don’t want them to mention it either.
  • Accept offers of help, both practical and emotional.
  • Plan some quiet time to yourself.
  • Try to include the children of the family in the planning. Younger children may need reassurance that it’s ok to enjoy Christmas, even if people are feeling sad.

At a school level, the Irish Hospice Foundation have sent us out their ‘Coping with Christmas’ leaflets and a copy of their Bereavement pack. If you would like copies of these leaflets, Paddy will keep them in his room and you’re always welcome to drop down. If you feel that your child is struggling with bereavement, you can always come and talk to his/her class teacher or Paddy and we can help you to access resources.

There are also specific bereavement agencies who run helplines:

  • A volunteer-led bereavement support service is run through The Bereavement Counselling Service (tel. 01-8391766).
  • If you have been bereaved through suicide, you can contact Console at 1800201890.
  • Finally, the Samaritans (1850 609090) offer a 24-hour listening service.
 We, in St Peter’s, wish everyone a peaceful and healing Christmas. We’ve made a donation to the Irish Hospice Foundation – Irish Childhood Bereavement Network, in recognition of their support when writing this post.
As always, we’re grateful for any input, especially regarding supports and resources. Drop in or leave a comment underneath.
Previous ‘Wednesday for Parents’ posts can be viewed here.

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