For many Canadians, the holidays are spent reuniting with loved ones, sharing laughs, and exchanging gifts. But, for victims and families who have lost someone they love to violence, the holiday season can be extremely difficult to face. This time of the year can change from one of joy, to one filled with sadness, loneliness, and anxiety.

This is the especially true for the family of Tina Fontaine. Less than four months after the murder of 15-year-old Tina, the family will be facing their first Christmas without her. Thelma Favel raised Tina, and now that she is gone, her family’s holiday celebrations will never be the same. Thelma stated, “it is Christmas time. It is all about family, and a big part of my family is gone”. Thelma and her husband are planning to honour Tina by placing a small Christmas tree beside her grave.

If you have lost someone you love, like the Fontaine family, trying to keep up with the festivities may at times feel unbearable. During the holidays, your loved one’s absence will be especially noticeable. You may ask yourself question such as: Am I being a bad person if I have a good time and celebrate? By doing so, am I ignoring the loved one I’ve lost? Should I be mourning instead?

These questions are normal and common, as celebrating with family and friends during the holiday season may make you feel like you are forgetting your loved one. But, remembering and honouring your loved one in a special way and spending time with others who make you happy can help you through this challenging time.

Here are some tips to help you cope during the holidays:

  • Recognize that is it normal to feel sadness and/or grief throughout the holidays. Try your best not to hide or ignore your emotions. If you feel sad, it is okay to cry. If you feel angry, allow yourself to express it.
  • Notice the positives. Also allow yourself to experience joy, both during the holidays and throughout the year.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help. It is okay if you need support from others. Do not feel as though you are a burden. Your friends and family members want to be there for you.
  • Remember you are not alone. Talking to other people who are going through a similar experience may help.
  • Take care of your health. Continue to eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of rest, as this can help lower your stress level.
  • You may want to celebrate old traditions or start new ones. For some people, old traditions may be too painful to endure. Others feel it is important to continue old traditions. For instance, you may wish to hang up your loved one’s stocking.
  • Creating a special tribute, such as lighting a candle in honour of your loved one or reliving fond memories, may help you express gratitude for having had your loved one in your life. Others choose to set a place for their loved one at the table during the holidays. There are many ways to honour the person you are missing.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

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