For many people this could be a first Christmas without a family member or close friend. They may have moved into a care home, be in hospital, or sadly may have recently died. First anniversaries of Christmas, birthdays and other personal events can be really hard for many people. Here are some suggestions if you are struggling with loneliness and loss over the holiday period, but you will be the best person to decide what feels right for you.
If you are by yourself, because the person you care for has moved into care or has died, be kind and patient with yourself; give yourself time to cope with your emotions. Coping with loss and bereavement can take a long time and although you may have thought you were coping well, you might experience a ‘dip’ around a family orientated time, such as Christmas.
You may experience a whole range of emotions and thoughts and want to withdraw from the festivities – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Decide how you want to spend the day. You may prefer to be completely alone or you may want the company of others. Try and spend time with someone you feel comfortable with, can talk to and trust.
Or you may decide to do something completely different, such as voluntary work to help others in need at this time of year. Look at local charities and voluntary organisations to see if they would like any help. Community Christmas is a website that provides information on local community events happening across the UK this Christmas.
If your family member or close friend is spending Christmas away from you in a care home or hospital, then approach the staff to see how you can be involved during the holidays. Care settings may welcome you to Christmas dinner and appreciate your help on the day. Each care setting is different so make sure you discuss plans with staff ahead of the day, then take along some music, old photos and gifts for everyone and make a day of it.
It maybe that you are already feeling the loss of the person you knew before they were diagnosed with dementia and are grieving for that person. This ‘anticipatory grief’ can feel as intense as the grief felt after death. You might be feeling aware of how much your relationship has changed and find it is hard to recognise them as the person they once were. You may miss old traditions that the person found important previously around Christmas.
Try to find some gentle activities that you can do together. By listening to some music, watching a film or looking at family photos it may spark some happy memories. Don’t expect the day to be perfect – enjoy it for what it is –and accept help offered from others.
Here to support you
There are people to talk to if you’re experiencing loss and loneliness this Christmas.
Your GP: If you feel your grief is unrelenting and is affecting your physical or emotional health do please speak with your GP for advice.
The Samaritans: If you feel depressed or suicidal – don’t struggle alone. Seek help from a health professional or call The Samaritans helpline free on 116 123.
Admiral Nurse Direct helpline: You can also talk to one of our specialist dementia nurses on 0800 888 6678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog has been kindly reviewed by Admiral Nurse Professional & Practice Development facilitator Caroline Scates.