Supporting those who grieve at Christmas time

Family Ministry Co-ordinator, Jennie Nolan, issues a reminder that the festive season is not festive for all.

Grief is felt when there is change or loss in a person's life. It could be a result of illness, bereavement, divorce or separation, losing a job or moving from your home, town or country. 

When someone is grieving, Christmas can prove to be a particularly lonely time, especially when those around them want to see them coping. Joining family and friends could prove difficult because of the memories triggered, the missing place at the dinner table and the way Christmas used to be.

You can help by acknowledging that they are grieving. Recognise the person’s loss. Let them know you understand they are missing their loved one especially at Christmas time (or on any other significant days throughout the year.) Be brave and mention the loved one’s name. Memory triggers seem to be everywhere the grieving person turns, especially in December!

People who are grieving may want Christmas to be exactly the way it used to be, maintaining family rituals and customs. This gives them comfort. It does not signal they have forgotten the person they have lost, or that Christmas is a time to ‘pretend’ they have learned to live without the person they are grieving.

Feelings of loss and grief can arise in the lead-up to Christmas, especially when many people are caught up with the rush and excitement that comes with the season. When people push their feelings aside or bottle them up, they can explode and play out in inappropriate ways. People can behave in ways that seem out of character.

It may be more appropriate to talk to a trusted friend and say that you are finding things difficult. Sometimes, expressing yourself to a listening friend can be supportive. If you know someone who is grieving, you might offer company or a cup of coffee.

Grief is very individual and everyone approaches grief, loss and change differently. Give grieving people the time and ‘permission’ to grieve as they wish.

For more information about how you can help yourself or someone who is dealing with grief while those around are celebrating, click here

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Jennie Nolan

Jennie Nolan is a Family Ministry Co-ordinator, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

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