Coping at Christmas

After losing a loved one, any time of the year can be tough but in particular Christmas is when some people find it the hardest to cope. Some people mightn’t want to celebrate Christmas at all! However, there are many positive ways to get through the festive period.

Many families carry traditions at Christmas time, as me and Victoria talked about in our latest vlog “Coping at Christmas,” but if it is too painful to carry on these traditions, put them to the side and create a new one. In doing this, it does not mean you are forgetting about that person, you are just remembering them in a new and different way. Maybe as time passes you may be able to return to the old ways and do things that you and that loved one would have done during this time of year.

Whether you want to get the family involved or you want to take a bit of time to yourself, a nice way to remember a loved one is making decorations dedicated to them. All you need is a few plain Christmas baubles, some paint, glitter, felt tips etc. and decorate your own bauble for the person and place it on your tree. This way that person can be a part of your Christmas celebrations every year. Another creative way of remembering people at Christmas time is decorating a candle. In the same way as the bauble decorate a plain candle dedicating it to that person/people and place it in the middle of the table, where everyone will be gathered and light it during your Christmas dinner. This way you may feel a comfort that the person is there with you, after the dinner it may be a nice idea, while the candle is still lit, to talk about the happy and funny memories you had with that person. Focus on the good, happy memories rather than the sad memories or regrets.

Christmas can be a lonely time for many people, especially if you’ve lost a loved one. No matter how long ago the person has died, everyday can still be tough. Grief has no timeline and no one should tell you that you “should be over it now” or “it happened ages ago, you should be okay.” For some people every day can be a struggle and Christmas is no exception. The most important thing for you to know is that you are never alone! There is always someone to lend a helping hand. If someone offers you help during the festive period – accept it – try not to isolate yourself, this will not help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People will not see you as weak – they will commend you for your bravery and strength.

If you have ideas of things to do at Christmas time to remember your loved one, why not respond to this blog and share your own ideas by leaving a comment below.

Happy Christmas!

Jane Molloy, HopeAgain Web Consultant

You're Not Alone

From the 16th-22nd of November is Children's Grief Awareness Week. Although 1 in 29 school children in the UK have lost a parent or sibling, grief is still often seen as a taboo subject. Feeling unable to talk about your bereavement can be very isolating.  When grief crashes down on you and fills you with old, new and unwanted emotions it can feel like no-one is there, no-one could ever understand what you're going through.  But from my time at Cruse I've learnt that, although no two people feel loss the same way, they can always find a common ground through their experiences.  They more often than not come away thinking "I never thought I would meet someone who understood me." 

Bottling up emotions, especially the strong emotions we feel after a loss, can deepen the feeling of isolation.  But it's alright to talk about it.  Sometimes finding a safe place to talk can be difficult and it's hard to trust someone and open up to them.  At Cruse we can provide that safe place, whether it's sending your story, creating a vlog or contacting us about talking to one of our trained volunteers. 

As a child or young person it can be hard to reach out and talk, but Cruse is there to help no matter what stage of your journey you are in.  And the good thing is, when you come to HopeAgain with your story or questions, you know you are being heard and responded to by other young people who know what it's like to walk through grief.

So let's use Grief Awareness Week to remind young people all over the world: "You are never alone."

Bridget Molloy, HopeAgain Consultant

How are you?

A question we hear at least three times a day, and often we respond with quite a blasé answer. How many times have you heard, ‘How are you?’ and you’ve automatically responded, ‘Good thanks, and you?’ without even contemplating it?

We’ve become so desensitised to that question that we no longer actually talk about how we’re feeling. I always respond that I’m doing grand, but if I actually responded with a hint of truth my answer would be more along the lines of: ‘I’m stressed, tired, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. I’ve got a pile of work to do and no idea what’s going on. People keep asking me what I want to do after uni and I have NO idea. I just want to sleep for a week. But how are you?’ 

That answer is probably a bit much to handle in everyday conversation, especially if you’re stuck in a social situation you’d rather not be in so you give the shortest answer possible to get the interaction over and done with. But when you think about it, how many times are you asked that question and you are never honest? 

Everybody needs to become more comfortable with talking about how they’re feeling. It shouldn’t be such a taboo to talk about your mental health, and you shouldn’t feel anxious about telling someone if you’re not doing so well. If you’re struggling with something, tell someone. If you feel down, tell someone. If you are always stressed, tell someone. If you’re incredibly happy, tell someone!

It should be more common for everybody to honestly talk about how they’re feeling, and it shouldn’t be frowned upon. If someone comes to you with their problems, take the time to listen to them, it doesn’t matter if you have no solution, sometimes just a pair of ears and a shoulder to cry on is all we need. 

 

University: Will I be the only one?

Going to university evokes a lot of mixed emotions for young people; nervousness, excitement, apprehension, to name but a few. But how does it feel going to university after a loss?

I remember the anticipation in the car journey when moving to university; what will my room be like, will I get on with my flatmates, will I be the only one?

I remember almost having a feeling of embarrassment, as well as worry, about being the only person moving into accommodation with one parent. I felt like it defined me, and I didn't want to be labelled as 'the girl whose dad died'. I had already gone through this in school, and I felt uni was a chance to start a fresh chapter of my life. 

It was a dull pain, watching so many people moving in with the help of both their parents. I couldn't help but wonder how my dad would feel about me heading to university, if he'd be proud or concerned, or just be glad of some peace and quiet? Who knows. 

I also remember the panic of meeting all my flatmates and them asking about my parents, to which the only response I could muster was, "Oh, it's just me and my mum." I couldn't physically get the words out that my dad had passed away, but I realised that's okay. You shouldn't feel ashamed of your story, and you don't have to share it if you don't want to. After a while I got more comfortable and a lot of people started telling me about their parents' divorce, or whatever their family issue was. It was a comfort to know I wasn't as much of an outcast as I had thought. Nobody's life is perfect, and we all have our demons.

You should never worry about being different, because the world would be an awfully boring place if we were all the same. 

A son who lost a mother

From the title of this post, you could assume I'm talking about anyone. However, I'm not just talking about any son or any mother, I'm talking about His Royal Highness Prince Harry, who lost his mother Diana, Princess of Wales. (I am not forgetting that Prince William lost his mother too, but will be focusing on Harry due to his recent spotlight in the media regarding his bereavement)

It's a tragedy when any child loses a parent, but how much worse would it be when you are known by every person in the country, if not nearly the world? Harry recalls being forced to walk along behind the coffin, which would scar any 12 year old, never mind one that is being watched by millions on TV. When I lost my Dad at the age of 14, I remember the fear, anxiety, and sheer panic of being forced out my front door to see my street flooded with family and friends. I can still remember the feeling to this day, and I couldn't imagine how it felt for Harry and William to do that with the world watching. 

Harry has recently opened up about the loss of Diana, and how he bottled it up for years, releasing his emotions in the form of smoking, drinking, and partying. This happens to a lot of young people after such a big loss, but when you're always in the public eye, and your grandmother is the Queen, it can be frowned upon. With the aid of his big brother, he finally sought help when he was 28. 

After talking about all he's been through, I noticed a lot of people responded rather negatively. People claimed he should get on with it, he didn't deserve sympathy anymore, or that it was 'old news'. Now, just because someone is a Prince and gets a bit more public recognition with these things doesn't mean they don't deserve empathy. If your friend told you about their parent dying when they were younger you'd never dream of telling them to 'get over it'. Harry is made from the same cells as everybody on the planet, and feels the same emotions. Just because somebody is famous doesn't mean they don't deserve to grieve. 

Bereavement happens to everybody in the world, and unfortunately is just a fact of life. If Prince Harry can open up and say even he needed support to deal with the loss of his mum, then it is nothing to be ashamed of. It's okay to not be okay.