Grieving at Christmas
Christmas is a time for joy. We are full of talk to plans with family, special gatherings and thoughtful gifts. Many people are spending their first Christmas without a loved one and that is often particularly painful.
With the busyness of the season, it’s easy to be preoccupied with our own to do list, but others may be in need of your support. If someone you know has lost someone this year, here are some things you can do to help.
At this time of year, many people need to talk about their loved ones. These could be happy memories, or painful ones, but allow them the space to share them. It’s often tempting to try to change the subject if someone is upset, but it’s important that they say what they need to say.
Be led by them
By the same token, be led by the person. Particularly if the bereavement is recent, they may not be ready for happy reminiscences. There will be other years for that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t bring it up, but don’t pressure them too much. Simply be there for them
Think of the gaps
There are probably many things that people miss at Christmas time, but it’s worth giving some thought to practical things that someone might need. ]They may need help or company putting up Christmas decorations, wrapping presents, maybe sharing a special Christmas treat or even getting them a thoughtful gift.
Be aware that someone might want to have a nice time at Christmas but want to avoid large party crowds. Social situations with lots of strangers or casual acquaintances can be particularly hard, especially if lots of people are discussing holiday plans. Ask the person what they would like to do. Maybe they would like a drink or dinner with a smaller group of close friends. Make sure you make time for them.
It can be a time for new traditions, which include taking a moment to remember loved ones. This could be a church service, lighting a candle, a particular trip or even serving a particular dish that was their favourite. Ask what you can do to help or to make that happen.
Don’t ignore them
People don’t know what to say, and many people are frightened of saying the wrong thing or upsetting someone. However nearly everyone we speak to says that the most hurtful or upsetting thing is people avoiding them, or not knowing what to say. It is far better to say something with caring intentions than to say nothing at all. Make sure you continue to extend invitations, particularly if someone has lost a partner. They may not accept but it is important to be asked. Give them space and, even if they decline, be sure to invite them again next year.
Accept that there is no time limit
Grief is not something for people to ‘get over’. There is no time by which someone should have moved on. The first year is hard but some people find subsequent years even harder. The longer someone has been gone the more they are missed, or the more people feel able to express their grief.
So take a moment to think about everyone who has lost someone this Christmas, and what you can do to show them you care.
All of our branches are hosting memorial services for loved ones to come and remember those they have lost. Do come and join us.
And may we wish you all a peaceful Christmas.