It’s hard to get caught up in the festivities when you’re missing a loved one. Christmas can ignite past memories with that person and get you down as you struggle to face this winter period without that person by your side.

As part of iRadio’s #CareThisChristmas campaign, The Lift spoke to Orla Keegan from the Irish Hospice Foundation who had this advice for anyone dealing with a bereavement this holiday season:

This is my first Christmas without a loved one. Any advice?

It’s hard to embrace the Christmas cheer when you’re facing it without your loved one by your side. Orla reccommends planning a little bit in advance can make the festive season a little more manageable:

“It [Christmas] can be such a dreaded time. It can be advisable just to try and plan into it a little bit and identify the pieces that you feel are going to be the worst and  say, “Well, maybe we don’t need to do that this year.”

“For example, if your big meal was the highlight of the day, you might say, “Look, we’re just going to maybe pare that back this year. We’ll do what we can,” so to speak”.

It can be hard to keep on a brave face, especially when there are kids in the family who are as excited as ever about Santa. Or

“You might be worried about the children in the family … confront them, ask them, include them.

“It’s not a time for pretend, either, and it is going to be a different and a difficult Christmas, so in some way acknowledging that within the family is important.”

“You don’t have to immerse yourself in Christmas. You can do a couple of things that you opt to, and you can withdraw.”

“Be gentle on yourself and to let yourself sort of engage with Christmas on your own terms, I think, is important.”

My friend is grieving this festive season. How can I help?

It might sound cliché but simply being there for your friend is a great place to start. Orla advises that “the first thing to do is acknowledge, and to keep acknowledging that this is going to be a different and a difficult time. You don’t know exactly how another person is feeling, but you can at least acknowledge that it’s going to be a challenge”.

Orla also suggests you keep in close contact with that friend throughout the holiday season and indeed, all throughout their grieving process:

“Just keep in touch, and if somebody didn’t want to go for a coffee, that doesn’t mean that in two days they wouldn’t want to go for a walk. So, keep suggesting things and keep connecting.”

“I think being a persistent and ever-present friend is a good thing … just ask somebody, “Is there anything I can do for you?” So, acknowledge, be there, be persistent, and ask.”

This might be my last Christmas with a loved one and I don’t know how to cope.

Many families across the country are facing the possibility that this might be their last Christmas Day with a loved one. Orla says the best thing to do is simply make the most of whatever time you do have left together. However, make sure you also schedule in some time to look after yourself too:

“You need to be a bit easy on yourself … You cannot be 24 hours upon 24 hours upon 24 hours with somebody, and so you do need to approach and withdraw. You do need to sleep. You do need to eat.”

“You won’t be there for other people if you literally haven’t looked after the whole of yourself. So, it’s being gentle and sensible with yourself, and then planning in as much time as you can with that person.”

The Irish Hospice Foundation’s Never Forgotten campaign encourages us to remember our loved ones this Christmas. They’re encouraging people to share their treasured memories and messages in their Book of Remembrance 2020. By giving a small donation in memory of your loved one, you’ll also be helping them provide much-needed relief to families facing the most heartbreaking time of their lives.

You can find out more over on their website.