As we enter the winter months and the nights get darker, we are entering a period of cultural and religious holidays. We’ve recently seen celebrations for Diwali, and over the next couple of months there will be around a dozen celebrations bringing families and friends together. If you have been bereaved such joyful family-oriented occasions can be difficult to manage. Even if you don’t observe any of these, or plan not to for this or any other year, there is no escaping the lights, the tv shows, the religious services, and the atmosphere of celebration and expectation. January brings a new year, perhaps the start of the first full year, without the person who died. There are never any right or wrong feelings with grief and loss and everyone grieves in their own way; this is true even on days which are important to your family, like birthdays or anniversaries, or days which are celebrated by people around the world– like Diwali or Christmas. No matter how long ago the death occurred, holidays and celebrations are often challenging when someone important has died. Sharing what you want to happen, what you might need to avoid and how you want to acknowledge and remember the person who died is important and it’s important that everyone has an opportunity to share their hopes and worries for the coming weeks.
If you are an adult or an older young person in a family with younger children who are bereaved, there can be a sense of pressure to create a perfect celebration when you yourself are grieving. We know that children, particularly younger children, can move in and out of grief seemingly quite suddenly and it can be difficult to meet the expectations of children excited for an event when the older people around them are not feeling celebratory.
When faced with an important celebration our team often advise:
- Find out what younger children are expecting and what they are looking forward to. This is a good way to focus your energy and manage expectations. Children’s ideas are sometimes not what we think, and they can help the whole family find ways to celebrate that they wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.
- Craft activities, such as making decorations for your home together, provide a lovely opportunity to talk about special memories of the person who died. Displaying things you have made together keeps this memory close to you and creates a connection to your person for years to come.
- Create new traditions honouring and remembering people who have died, either with things that are completely new to your family or by incorporating their favourite foods or seasonal activities into your celebrations.
- Plan ahead if you want to do something such as visit the grave or memorial site, set a place at the table or have a special gift, all these things can be forgotten or overlooked during busy events. There are no rules that things must happen, and plans can and should change when they need to, but a bit of forward planning and shared ideas helps to make sure everyone has a chance to reflect and remember
- Find ways to cope. It really might be a question of ‘getting through’ the next few weeks and that’s not a wrong feeling. Let your friends and family know you don’t feel like celebrating and maybe visit the SeeSaw website for ideas and resources to manage difficult feelings and memories. Look out for organisations that offer support and community, many people find themselves struggling at this time of year for all sorts of reasons and there are places to go for more help and advice.
- Having fun is OK. Sometimes people find that during busy or exciting times they haven’t thought about the person who died as much as they expected to, or they have thought about them and not felt sad, and that’s ok as well. You aren’t going to forget your person, and you will have lots of opportunity to remember them and bring their memory into your existing and new traditions in ways that feel right for you.
- Be kind to yourself and know that, as strange as it seems, having a lovely time during this time of year can sit alongside feelings of deep sadness and loss.
However you, your family and community choose to celebrate during this very busy season we hope this has helped you decide how to manage the season best for your family. For more information and advice check our website resources