Christmas is not cancelled and people should take practical steps to avoid loneliness, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
Justin Welby said that people should share memories of lost loved ones and make plans for times ahead where proper celebrations would be possible.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr show he said: “(Loss) is very hard and pretending otherwise is not helpful.
“We have to face our losses and unless in one way or another we make something of the memories, they attack us.
“Talk to each other on the phone if you can’t talk in person, which is for most of us, much of the time – share, think about the person, bring their memories back.
“Look for the healing that is there.”
Asked directly whether Christmas was cancelled, Mr Welby replied: “No.
“The celebrations are cancelled. We’ll come to those again,” he said.
“This is very different to what we hoped for and longed for and it is the most intense pain for a lot of people.
“But it’s not cancelled because at the heart of Christmas is Jesus coming into the world, God coming into the world and then coming onto Easter.
“This is a moment of God saying I am with you in the mess and there is hope.”
Even in areas in Tier 4, the toughest level of restriction in England, places of worship will remain open over the Christmas period.
But Mr Welby said that elderly and vulnerable parishioners should not feel “under compulsion” to go to church over the festive period and that people should take the decision themselves.
He said that his own mother, who is in her 90s, would not be going because it was “too dangerous”.
To those attending church in person he added that people should not “mingle” after services and stay away from the choir, joking that he was often told to avoid the choir in church “because my voice is so bad”.
“Wave happily to people and go home,” he said.
The archbishop added that spending time on the telephone talking to friends and family, and planning future meetings were “practical” ways to cope for those feeling lonely over the festive period.
“I have spent Christmases on my own…and I have no illusions about how dark it feels,” he said.
“Talk to people on the phone.
“Ring, share and plan.
“Something about planning for the future helps us dream.
“What are you going to do? What are we going to do when this time is over?
“It may be many months yet but as the vaccine comes in things will change.
“What are we going to do to celebrate?
“And to mourn and to grieve, but crying and laughing to celebrate.”