Coping with Christmas: Tips from WAY members

December 2022

Christmas is a tough time of year when you're grieving and one of our members, Jane, decided to set up a Christmas subgroup to help WAY members get through the festive season. We also have some tips from members on coping with Christmas when you've been widowed young.

Two people hugging at Christmas

“I created the subgroup in Christmas 2020 mindful that we were going to be spending the weeks rolling up to Christmas in lockdown, and what a difficult and lonely season it is, even without that,” says Jane.

“My vision of the group was that it would be like a school gates gathering, or coffee with friends – getting caught up in all the Christmas fuss, sharing tips, sales that are on, present ideas, what’s on TV and looking out for that lonely friend in the group.

I wasn’t sure how well it would be received and would completely understand why someone would be aghast at the thought of joining a Happy Christmas place given their situation. But I was really pleased and surprised that so many joined. And they didn’t just join, our members really got involved. We have had some sad conversations, and all have been there to send a virtual hug.

We currently have more than 700 members, and we are planning some Christmas-related activities together.

My thoughts with Christmas ever since my husband died has been - there’s no escaping it so we might as well get through it together as best we can.

I think the group has at times eased loneliness and definitely improved the wellbeing of many members."

Tips for coping with Christmas from WAY members

Vicky, WAY Member

"I decided very early on that I was going to give myself permission to only do what I felt ready to do, and if that meant not joining in the rest of the family festivities, then so be it.

Be gentle on yourself - if you don't want to be alone, then make plans, but be prepared if being around people gets too much; tell them in advance that you might nip out when you feel overwhelmed and not to worry."

WAY Member

"Find a way of bringing your loved ones into the holidays. Remembering previous Christmases and New Year celebrations with your loved on helps me with the current one."

Emma, WAY Ambassador

"Each year, I’ve learnt that as well as keeping the tradition and the memories, we also have to do us. We have to make our memories too; we have to do what’s right for us. It doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten him; it just means that we’re moving forwards in a way that works for us.

It can be so easy to try to do things exactly the same, but that can be even tougher because the awareness is even greater that they’re not there."

Veronica, WAY Member and Volunteer Manager

"I bought a candle the first year that had a connection to my husband that we lit on Christmas morning and it stayed lit all day... It felt like involving him somehow."

Joy, WAY Member

"I do a lot of craft and last year my hubby Steve got me a mystery box from the local knitting shop and I have done it this year like it’s a present from him"

Aimee, WAY Member and Volunteer

"You might find comfort in creating new traditions, doing old ones or not doing any of them. There is no right or wrong way to do the festive period after losing your love."

WAY Member

"You can't stop your emotions so try to be in a place where you can do the things you need to. We all grieve differently but knowing WAY members who get it are here really helps."

BBC Radio Ulster

"In the early days, it's just about getting through whatever way you can. Whatever happens, life will go on and Christmas will go on.

You just have to get through it the best way you can. We light a candle on Christmas morning and that burns all day - like a little light that shines on in his memory and will continue to do so."

Bridie joined WAY 9 months after her husband Patrick died in 2018. She recently spoke on BBC Radio Ulster about the peer support she found through WAY and getting through the festive period.

Christmas graphic