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For a bereaved parent, Christmas can be painful


DIFFICULT TIME Christmas can be one of the hardest times of year for someone who has lost a child.

Mental Health

Jannah Walshe

Christmas arrived with a bang last month. Christmas songs are playing and Christmas decorations are everywhere to be seen. For a bereaved parent, all of this is a painful reminder that a supposedly happy celebratory time is fast approaching. Whether it’s their first year without a child or several years after the bereavement, Christmas joy and warmth can feel at odds with their internal feelings.
If you are a bereaved parent and wondering how you will cope over the Christmas period, there are a few things that may help.
Firstly, don’t ask too much of yourself. If you need to be around people, be around people. If you need to be alone, be by yourself. Do what feels right for you in that moment in time. It will change day by day, that’s to be expected. Plan Christmas so that you are under as little stress as possible. Make sure you don’t over-commit.
It can also help to remember your child and mark the day in some way that makes them part of it. This will be different for everyone. You could light a special candle to burn on Christmas Day in memory of your child; or make or buy a special decoration to hang on the tree in their memory; or buy a small gift for the age their child would be and donate it to charity. You could also spend some time at your child’s grave or at a special place where you would have spent time together, or share your memories with someone by looking at photographs and sharing stories of your child.
If you have other young children in the family, they will probably want Christmas to carry on as it did before. This can be very difficult for a parent, but sometimes getting through the normality of the celebrations can also be a comfort. If you can or need to, ask other friends or family to buy presents, do the shopping, clean the house or hang decorations. So many people want to help but often don’t know the right thing to do. So if you feel able to, tell them specific things, and they will be glad to help in some way.
Remember, these are just some ideas of things that might be helpful. Use what is helpful to you and leave what is not. None of this is simple or easy; nothing after this type of loss is. Honour your child in the way that you need to, and do what feels best for you.

For further support, contact Anam Cara. This is an organisation that supports bereaved parents throughout Ireland. They have parent meetings on the third Thursday of each month. The next one in Mayo is on December 15 from 7.30pm to 9pm in The Family Centre, Castlebar. Further information can be found on www.anamcara.ie.

Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at info@jannahwalshe.ie or 085 1372528.

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