Coping at Christmas: Tips on self-care

A local bereavement support service is offering advice to people across the Harrogate District who might find the holiday period difficult due to bereavement or other seasonal stresses and strains.

Just ‘B’, a service provided by Saint Michael’s Hospice, provides services to children, young people and adults affected by any kind of bereavement and offers support for wider emotional wellbeing. As the festive period approaches, Just ‘B’ is offering the community useful tips on how to look after themselves across the festive season, which can be a particularly busy time where emotions are intensified.

Sarah Applewhite, Adult Bereavement Manager, said: “For many people, the festive period can be a lonely or isolating time, particularly for those experiencing bereavement – whether their significant person died recently or many years ago.

“Christmas can set up unrealistic expectations, and this can be overwhelming for many people, who feel pressure to ‘get into the spirit’ of things and have fun, when in reality they may be experiencing many complex emotions around their grief.

After a bereavement there are many ‘firsts’ people experience – birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. For those spending their first Christmas without that important person, Sarah says: “Don’t bottle up your grief; embrace the memories of the person who has died, talk about them and give yourself permission to cry as and when you need to.

 Ways to cope over the festive period:

  • Do what feels right for you: whether you want to be alone, or surrounded by people.
  • Make time for yourself. Doing something for yourself that you enjoy, no matter how small, can be a great psychological break from the stress of Christmas.
  • Some people find it helpful to create new traditions or new customs to pay tribute to the people who have died. Try not to feel guilty about changing your routine, or about keeping routines that are important to you – whether you spend Christmas somewhere new, or lay their place at the dinner table, do what makes you feel comfortable.
  • Tears are a normal part of the grief journey, and so is laughter – moments of happiness or humour don’t mean that you have forgotten the person that has died, but that you are learning to live with your grief.
  • Accepting offers of help – from practical support with shopping or a listening ear – can ease the pressure of the festive period and give you time out to recharge your emotional energy.
  • If you feel you may experience loneliness over the Christmas period, pick up the phone to friends or family, or an established support line. Many online forums also offer you the chance to connect with others in a similar position to you.
  • Many services are still open and there to support you, such as church or community groups offering social lunches and events where you can meet new people. There are also a number of support lines open 24/7 so do reach out if you need to.
  • If you feel things may be getting too much, don’t try to get through it yourself – talk to someone, whether it is a friend, family member, community group or established support line.”

To find out more about the Just ‘B’ service, visit or call (01423) 856 790.

Image shows: Sarah Applewhite, top left, with staff and volunteers from the Just ‘B’ team.

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