Hearts for Christmas

Christmas is not easy for everyone

Christmas can be a tough time of year for some people. Not everyone has happy Christmas memories and it is a time of year when there may be an enforced jollity which can be very uncomfortable. For others it can be a time when traumatic memories rise up, even if the trauma is not related to Christmas.

For many people it can be as simple as the change of routine and the added stress of spending outside the usual budget, the lack of sleep, the extra travelling with the expenses incurred or eating food which is rich and may not agree with you.

And there are times when someone who normally relishes Christmas may find it difficult due to a recent bereavement, bad personal news or heartbreak. This year I am in the “finding it difficult” category. I usually really enjoy Christmas with all the trimmings however this year I am finding it a wee bit of a struggle because this is the first Christmas since my mother passed away.

We haven’t cancelled Christmas, the tree is being decorated today and gifts will be wrapped and left underneath. We have not left these things so late because of my grief, we have been renovating and so were waiting for certain jobs to be finished before bringing in the tree.

If you know someone who is having a difficult Christmas for any reason you may wonder what to do to cheer them up – my advice is to not to try. I’m not saying to ignore them however please don’t try to jolly along someone who is feeling sad amidst the jollity and cheer.

  • Don’t tell them to cheer up
  • Don’t suggest having another drink
  • Don’t tell them that they are bringing everyone else down (we are not responsible for how others feel at any time)
  • If you know that they usually enjoy hugs then offer a hug
  • Ask them to talk about the person they are missing if that is the reason for the sadness
  • Ask them if they would like to talk
  • Be yourself, not a Christmas elf
  • Ask if there is anything they would like to do and then do it with them
  • Perhaps offer some time outdoors, walking is often helpful to me when grief is heavy in my heart
  • Give them time, give them space, allow them to feel what they are feeling, respect where they are in their process
  • Know that this too will pass
  • Look after your own needs, find someone to talk with if you are really concerned about your friend’s mental health

Grief Just Is

This is a poem that I wrote when my Dad passed away. The loss of each parent is a separate and different experience. Becoming an orphan as an adult is also a different experience, it changes your family, it changes the sibling relationships.


I need to respect the tears, I need to weep, that’s all there is to it. There’s no shortcut to grief’s end, it just is and it just is.

My heart is hurting. There’s a gap in my heart, that’s why it hurts so much. Where my mother’s physical presence was is no more, her lifeforce has gone, leaving a gaping hole nothing can fill.

I don’t want anything to fill it, it’s still her space, maybe waiting to fill with spirit and memories. I don’t know and I don’t want to know, it’s not my business, yet.

It will reveal itself when it’s able, when I’m able, to see it, to feel it without feeling as though I’m betraying her loss.

I need to honour her loss right now. It’s the only time I will feel it exactly this way, it’s precious and I don’t want to speed through it and not notice.

This is too precious to miss and so easy to miss with “I’m Grand” and “Keeping Busy” and “Isn’t She Great How She’s Getting On With Things?”

So it’s good to feel this?

Hell no, it’s not good. It’s real.

It’s precious. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

It’s messy and teary and real and precious and when it’s over what will I remember?

It’s not that I want to freeze it, to look back, however it’s a huge part of my life journey, of my growing up, of becoming a realised adult and as such, is worthy of note.

I sometimes don’t remember when Dad died, how I felt or how much I cried, I remember the immediate stuff, it’s the six months later that I have trouble with, for the moment. I guess it will come back, when this pain has grown older.

I do remember that not a day would go past when I wasn’t thinking of him or talking to him and then there came a time when it was two days.

Miriam Sheerin

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