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Day 4. Grief at Christmas

What those who are grieving wish you knew.

Any time of the year when you are missing a loved one is hard. But when the spirit of Christmas is about being with the people you love, about family and about being happy and ‘merry’, Christmas poses its own particular difficulties for those who are coping with grief.

While the loss of a loved one may not be recent, grief comes in waves, and at a time like Christmas, it is normal for a wave to hit you hard, all at once. On day four, we are looking at 4 things those who are struggling with grief wish we knew at Christmas, and how we can support those around us.

Grief is not something anyone should feel guilty about. It is a part of life and can be especially difficult at Christmas. Responses to grief are different in everyone, and no one deals with loss the same – so be kind to yourself and others who may be going through the same but dealing with it differently. And try to eliminate the guilt you may feel for not being as ‘in the Christmas spirit’ as those around you.

Grief Looks Different on Everyone

Just because someone is engaging in and enjoying the Christmas activities, it does not mean they are not struggling. Even the best times are often pierced by the feeling that someone is missing. So check in with people, and try not to overwhelm those who are grieving with endless ‘fun’ activities as a distraction, sometimes space and time to grieve is the best thing you can give to someone struggling.

Social Events are Hard

Grief can be overwhelming and all consuming, and having to socialise while dealing with grief can be exhausting. While parties and social events may seem like a ‘good distraction’, they can easily turn Christmas into something to survive rather than enjoy. To help your peers cope with situations like these, make sure you stay with them and do the interacting for them if they don’t feel up to it. Most importantly, ensure you do not pressure them into attending anything they don’t want. While you may feel it will be a ‘good distraction’ sometimes social situations can add to the grief, or simply be exhausting.

It’s Normal to Get Upset

Seeing your loved ones upset on Christmas can be saddening. But allow them to feel, and remember its okay to cry. Sometimes we just need the space to feel and let emotions out. Be there for them, and show them kindness, but don’t tell them to ‘be strong’ or to stop crying – letting out emotions is normal and a healthy way of coping with grief. Sometimes emotions hit us unexpectedly and all at once, and that is okay. It might be Christmas but crying is a part of grief and grief doesn’t take days off. 

It’s Good to Mention Their Name

When someone we know loses a loved one, people can be awkward in approaching how they address it. But if no one even mentions their name on Christmas day, it can feel like losing them all over again. People often avoid the topic in order to avoid triggering those who are grieving, but what that is actually doing is erasing the memory of them completely on Christmas. A lot of people who are grieving will welcome conversations or brief mentions of the ones they have lost this Christmas, it keeps their memory alive and reminds us why Christmas is such a special time. To make sure you know how to, or if to, talk about people we have lost ask those who are going through grief if they would like to involve their loved one in conversations during the day, and how they would like the situation to be approached. It shouldn’t be awkward to talk about a loved one now they are gone, just ask and respect the wishes of those who are going through grief.