It's no secret that Christmas can be stressful. And it's no secret that families occasionally have the odd barney, or that the turkey lands bottom up in the snow outside the kitchen window. But for many of us, the festive season marks a time when the person you'd most like to wish a happy Christmas to isn't there. The pressure of ensuring a fun Christmas Day for everyone is huge, but when you're coping with loss - be it bereavement, separation, divorce or whatever else - it becomes an almost impossible ask. Here are some of our gransnetters' best tips on dealing with grief at Christmas in the most positive way possible.
Sometimes a loss, especially bereavement, can be the elephant in the room. Afraid of upsetting someone, but equally worried that not mentioning the absent loved one might cause offence, it's a tricky line to tread. So take time to raise a glass to the person who can't be with you.
"I usually spend Christmas Day alone. I think of my husband - of all the good times we had and how he could always make me laugh."
"I will do the Christmas tree and decorations as usual and bring out my husband's last Christmas card to me. Will try to be cheerful and festive, as I know he would want me to be."
"I discovered if you give time to your grief at Christmas, it is also possible to have fun."
There's often pressure to be the perfect host at Christmas. Sometimes, though, the best course of action is to be kind to yourself and do what you want to do - what you would enjoy. Prefer to spend Christmas with friends? Break the news. Don't feel up to hosting? See if another family member can. Perhaps even take a holiday or volunteer with a charity - change your usual Christmas routine and experience something new.
"I can slob around, watch what I want on TV and if I want, have a boiled egg for lunch, but I will buy something more up-market in case I fancy it. Last year a friend of mine started to paint one of her bedrooms!"
"A young man we know who lost his mother a couple of years ago always works for Crisis at Christmas on Christmas Day and Boxing Day."
"Are there any choirs in your area? If so, have you thought of joining one, perhaps just to join in with the Christmas carols?"
For some, the distraction of Christmas is a relief. Whether it's making a fancy Christmas cake or getting into your PJs and enjoying the best Christmas telly you can find, think about the aspects of Christmas you love - not because of an association with another person, but Christmassy things you indulge in that are just for you.
"Get some decorations up. Make your house look really pretty - for you. You could even make yourself a little Christmas cake and a Christmas pud. Have them on Boxing Day, or Christmas Eve. Find some church Christmas fairs near you - they always get me in the mood. If you try really hard to embrace Christmas, you could well find some good personal happiness."
"Unexpectedly, Radio 2 one year avoided the big hype and made me feel very comfortable. A relaxed atmosphere, as if to say 'well, we don't have to be at home with grumpy relatives, over-excited children and harassed cook-in-chief (usually mum), do we?' Then they played records that kind of fitted in with this."
"I always dread Christmas as everything bad that's happened has always been around Christmas. But somehow, as it gets nearer, I get sucked in at least a little bit, and my daughter and son are so lovely that I usually enjoy it all!"
There's always our forums to join in with if you feel the need for a chat on or around the day, and of course gransnetters are supreme beings when it comes to support and positive ideas. But there's also something to be said for meeting friends, new and old, face to face. Why not make a resolution to use your Gransnet Local site to meet up with gransnetters in your area? Go on, take the plunge and look forward to a positive 2019. We also host an annual virtual Christmas party, which you can pop in to here.
"There is always a thread going on Christmas Day for those of us alone through choice or not. Or, even those who want to escape from family!"
"I reach out to say you're not alone, there are others who dread the Family Festive Season... Here's an alternative. Put on your paper hat, girls, and jump on the GN Sleigh, then hold tight! Coming to a stop near you on 25th December!"
"Nothing is ever perfect, and I think that is the clue - the more perfect we try and make it, the less it is."
And with best wishes from GNHQ, we'll leave you with some wise words:
"Things can and will turn around for many people and if this one isn't filled with the people we hoped it would, then love yourself and look after you, you only get the one."