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Seven ways to help someone cope with loss during Christmas time

Here at GreenAcres Woodland Burials, we meet people every day who are coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. And while everyone else is getting ready to celebrate Christmas with friends and family, for those who have experienced loss, Christmas can also be one of the hardest times of the year.

We often find that family and friends of those who are bereaved have a desire to feel “useful” either offering some kind of emotional support or something more practical, depending on who is doing the “giving” and who is receiving it.

We have spoken to a number of our families who have helped us compile a list of the seven most practical things they valued from friends or family most highly during their bereavement especially at Christmas time.

  1. Make a special effort to keep in contact after the funeral and even more so during the Christmas period.  It may be tempting to keep away, as you probably do not know what to say, but visits and telephone calls are helpful.  Loss can make someone feel very alone especially at this time of year.
  2. Be a good listener.  Try not to steer the conversation yourself but let the person talk about what they want.  Allow, even encourage, him or her to talk about the loss that has happened or the person who has died and listen attentively.
  3. This time of year can be difficult for people. Try to avoid making assumptions about how the other person feels. All losses are different.  Do not assume that the other person will feel the same as you did when you experienced a similar loss.
  4. While other people are out and about enjoying the festive season, someone may feel extremely lonely. Remember the importance of touch.  Bereaved people and those experiencing separation often feel isolated and miss the warmth of human contact. 
  5. If you can see that the other person needs help, then offer or suggest where this can be obtained – do not wait to be asked.   Be prepared to accept that your offer may be declined – you can always offer to help in some other way or at another time.  Be careful not to take over – the other person should remain in control or jobs done regularly could become an obligation.
  6. Refer to the professionals – if necessary.  If you notice a serious problem which seems to be persisting longer than it should, e.g. self-neglect, malnutrition or mood swings, you could express your worries and offer to help with further signposting. Also consider that certain places might be less operational during Christmas.
  7. Allow plenty of time.  Grieving is a process which changes over the weeks, months and years, but your support will still be valuable.  Anniversaries such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries, anniversary of a death and of course Christmas are particularly difficult for the bereaved person.

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