Today’s guest post is written by Kate of Sheffield Cancer Mafia, a support group for people with cancer in their lives, from those with cancer themselves to those supporting a loved one. Based in Sheffield, England, but involving people from further afield, the group links up people with cancer, those who have survived cancer, their carers, family, friends and those who have lost a loved one.
Christmas is a difficult time of year for so many people after the death of a loved one. Any happy times of celebration can be a challenge when you are bereaved and Christmas can really highlight a sense of loss when you reflect on how times have changed. It can be such a sad and lonely time.
I had several very challenging Christmases when first my Dad and then my Mum were ill with cancer. After they had died, facing Christmas without the two of them seemed a terrible prospect. Shared family traditions were changed forever now they had gone. Even simple things like taking my Mum shopping so she could get some surprise gifts for my Dad and attending a carol service with them are things I still miss so very much. A great deal of people who are bereaved will have similar feelings about past times they have spent with family and friends at Christmas time, and will be missing the people that have been close to them.
Just before Christmas 2013, I was chatting about this on Twitter with Steven Piatczanyn of The Gay Partner Bereavement Research Team at the University of Liverpool. We were considering how many people found Christmas very difficult after the death of a loved one and wondering if we might be able to link up with people via Twitter.
After a short time thinking about what we could do, we came up with the idea of using #BereavedAtXmas on Twitter to connect those who needed a friendly word on Christmas Day. Many people used the #BereavedAtXmas hashtag and we found that this was tweeted by many people who were facing a difficult Christmas Day. By searching for the hashtag and using it ourselves, we managed to link up with people who needed a friendly word or who simply just wanted to acknowledge those they had lost. Even a simple hello seemed to make a difference to someone who was finding things particularly hard.
#BereavedAtChristmas will be running again throughout Christmas Day this year. Anyone who is missing a loved one and wants to chat with others just needs to tweet #BereavedAtXmas and someone will link up with you. Just use the hashtag to get involved in the chat.