Helping Your Friends and Family Deal with Grief This Christmas

A typical winter scene, picturing a snowy street with a tree in the foreground Click image to view full size
A typical winter scene, picturing a snowy street with a tree in the foreground

Christmas should be a time people look forward to, but it’s not always the case. It can actually be the hardest time of the year when you’ve lost someone close to you, and it’s not always easy for people to appreciate that.

That’s why we thought we’d put together this short piece explaining how you can help those closest to you deal with such a difficult time. Your approach as partner, parent, child, or friend will obviously differ depending on the exact situation you find yourself in, but there are certainly some general ground rules that are applicable for most circumstances.

Involvement

Christmas is so hectic that it’s very easy to become a bit lost in all of the commotion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; some people find it helps them to stay busy, surround themselves with people, and not dwell. If you find that your bereaved relative or friend is reaching out a lot, often seeking to meet up or looking to chat, then make the time to let them do so. If they prefer to occupy themselves, then they’re going to need people around them who can make that possible. You can make sure you’re that person.

Space

On the contrary, some people need to be left alone. This might seem counterintuitive to some, but giving yourself some time on your own to reflect can often prove very healing in the long term. If you’re used to spending lots of time with someone, and they express the need to spend a bit of time on their own, then it’s best that you allow that. Understandably, you might be concerned if they’re completely isolating themselves, but you’ll be able to tell if they’re taking it too far. Just be sure to check in on them from time to time, so you can monitor how they’re doing.

This is a particularly hard one to judge sometimes – if you’re celebrating Christmas and the person in question seems completely set against the idea of any festivities, then it’s best not to pester them to get involved. As long as you’re attentive when required, and give them what they want and the support they need, you won’t go far wrong.

Conversation

Let your relative or friend guide the conversation. If they’re in the mood to talk about the person they’ve lost, then you should let them do so, and listen to them. If, however, they’re avoiding the topic, don’t force them to bring it up. Give them time, and let them broach the subject at their own pace. Try to keep the subject as light as you can for the most part initially, and avoid bringing anything up that’s likely to irritate or upset.

Final points

Finally, we’ve put together a list of generic points to abide by when you’re supporting a grieving person.

  • Let them lead the way
  • Accept that everyone grieves different
  • Remain positive, but avoid clichés
  • Look after yourself – this can be tough for you, too

We’ve only briefly run you through some of the key points to consider – the honest truth is that you’re going to have to do a lot of working out yourself. The person in question comes above anything else, and even these general rules won’t apply in every circumstance. They key is being there, and helping them to feel comfortable enough in processing their grief however they need.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail