Whilst many people around you are excited at the prospect of Christmas it may be an experience that you would rather forget if you are recently separated or bereaved. Reminders in the shops, on the television, parties and the odd card addressed to the two of you may make forgetting difficult. So how do you cope with the pressure and emotional turmoil of the festive season?

Bear in the mind the following:

The first is the worst
The first Christmas, birthday, anniversary.the first year is always the worst especially on special occasions. In time the raw emotion will ease and you will acquire coping strategies for special times of the year

Christmas is just a day
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that Christmas is one day and often the build up and pressure is from commercial motives. There are also many people who do not celebrate it, take for example people of other faith groups. Keep it in perspective and do not let it dominate your life from the end of November onwards

You are not alone
It can seem as though everyone is celebrating and excited about Christmas! This isn't true. Scratch the surface and you will find that many people have individual reasons for dreading Christmas. Don't feel that you are the odd one out or a bah humbug!

You will survive
There are many strategies for surviving Christmas and the season will give way to a brighter and happier new year as long as you have a positive outlook for the future. Concentrate on what lies ahead, not what could have been or dwell on the past

Christmas Alone

If you face the prospect of Christmas alone there are many options for overcoming isolation:

Friends, family and neighbours
Let friends, family, work colleagues and neighbours know that you have no plans for Christmas. Let the invitations roll in, and if that fails invite people to yours - the more the merrier! You could also consider other people who might be alone this Christmas, for example elderly neighbours or other people you know who have recently come out of a long term relationship

Book a "Singles Christmas"
There are companies and organisations that specialise in bringing single people together at Christmas. Try your local church, papers, holiday reps or join itsfinished.com and post in our forums to find others in your area with whom to spend the day.

Spoil Yourself
Shut yourself away from the world and put thoughts of Christmas out of your mind, it is after all just one day. Instead pamper yourself with a bottle of wine, chocolate, a long soak in the tub, your favourite videos or whatever helps you relax and feel good about yourself

Work
If your place of work is looking for people to do the Christmas shift, volunteer. You'll be popular among your work colleagues and next year when your circumstances may have changed it will be someone else's turn to do the Christmas shift

Take a Holiday
Somewhere hot will be far from Christmassy and there are many countries where Christmas is not celebrated to the extent it is in Britain.

Volunteer
Make someone else's Christmas. Many faith groups and charities such as the Salvation Army put on special lunches for the homeless and those who would otherwise be alone at Christmas. They are always in need of volunteers and it is a great way to get out and meet new people

Dealing with Bereavement

If it is your first Christmas alone remember that the first will be the most painful and subsequent Christmas's will get easier to deal with. Don't give in to pressure from friends and family to get into the spirit of Christmas or feel the need to join them if you don't want to. Take things slowly and at your own pace.

Be prepared for cards made out to the two of you from people who may not have heard your news. Consider how you will respond and if necessary ask a friend or relative to deal with any replies for you.

If you have children talk to them in advance about what they want to do and try and balance your needs with theirs. Remember that people express grief in different ways. They may be excited about Christmas when you are not or vice versa. this doesn't mean that they are not feeling their loss, just that they are coping with it differently.

Set aside a special time during the day when you can remember your partner, for example by visiting the grave or lighting a candle. If you have children discuss an activity that you can do as a family such as setting aside time to reflect upon memories. This way you will acknowledge and remember your spouse whilst not letting it dominate the whole day.

Finally, don't bottle your feelings up. Christmas can be a highly emotional time of year with poignant memories and constant reminders of happy couples. Talk to friends and family and contact a helpline if you feel the need. Click here for a list of organisations that can help.

 

Christmas on a Budget

Do

  • Plan your budget carefully. Set aside an amount for Christmas expenditure and stick to it. Include food, presents and any related expenditure in your calculations
  • Try and earn some extra cash. Take on a few extra shifts at work or casual weekend work through an agency. Many shops and companies take on extra staff in the run up to Christmas
  • Shop online. Many goods are cheaper online with fewer overheads for companies and many special deals that cannot be found in the high street
  • Look in the local paper or use Amazon or E-bay for second hand toys and presents. There are often many bargains and children will be just as happy riding a second hand bike than a new one if they know that money is tight
  • Shop in bargain shops, markets and charity shops. There are many cheap bargains to be had and as people make way for new presents you will be surprised at what you can find in charity shops such as CDs, books, toys and party clothing
  • Cut out any extra expenditure on things such as Christmas crackers, expensive alcohol and table decorations. These can add up and are unnecessary trimmings

Don't

  • Borrow money to pay for Christmas. You do not want to start the New Year in debt and still be paying for toys in June that children have bored of by the end of January
  • Be tempted by store cards as the interest rates are astronomical and far higher than many credit cards or high street bank loans. Be careful of Buy Now Pay Later deals - if you cannot afford to pay for it now will you be able to pay for it in six months time?
  • Feel pressured to splash out on Christmas. Many people agree that Christmas has become increasingly commercial with television advertising and constant reminders in the shops. Remember that Christmas is about more than shopping and a gesture of goodwill will be much more appreciated by many than an expensive present
  • Go to office dinners or parties because you feel obliged to if you are worried about needing a new outfit or paying for the cost of any food or drinks. Consider whether you can afford it before accepting any invitations
  • Feel that you have to buy presents for every distant relative, friend and work colleague. If you cannot afford it and they are genuine friends they will understand. You could suggest a bran tub at work where everyone buys one present and everyone gets one, cutting down the cost for everybody
  • Try and compensate for an absent parent by buying more for your children or compete with your ex. Absent parents may buy more to appease guilt or make up for lost time. Talk it through with them in advance if you are worried that they will spend more than you but remember - as materialistic as children can be, there is no substitute for the affection of a loving parent and they will eventually come to realise and appreciate this.

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