22 Dec 2017

Coping with grief through the festive season

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:25 pm on 22 December 2017

This time of the year can be difficult for people who've lost a loved one recently.

Nic Russell from the bereavement support charity Kenzie's Gift has advice on getting through Christmas when you're still grieving or spending time with someone who is.

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Photo: Tim Mossholder

Christmastime can exacerbate the sense of missing someone you've spent holidays with in years past.

People who are grieving shouldn't feel selfish or guilty about opting out of a gathering if you're not feeling good that day, Nic says.

"Just do what's right for you. It is a hard time of year."

We each have our own way of dealing with grief, and some people pay tribute to those they're missing in a very subtle way.

"It might be that you make something for the Christmas tree, or bring something that person liked as your plate."

If you're hosting Christmas, you could ask people to bring a keepsake of the person who is no longer around as a talking point.

"That's the really important thing about grief is that families want to remember and they want the opportunity."

If you know someone who has lost a loved one recently, there's no better time of year to reach out, Nic says.

"Instead of saying 'Just let me know if I can do anything for you', go round and get the Christmas tree done, help with the dinner, bring up the loved one that's missing."

Nic Russell and son Conor

Nic Russell and son Conor Photo: Supplied

Many people avoid referring to a person who has died, but don't be afraid to share stories and prompt conversations with "Remember the time when…"

"Be willing to have a laugh and share a memory. People [grieving] want to keep that memory alive because the loved one is still with them."

Nic founded Kenzie's Gift after her daughter Kenzie died around Christmas in 2005.

In the months that followed, she found there was a missing piece of the puzzle in relation to support for families and children who are grieving.

"It's a big club that nobody wants to be a part of."

On Nic's first Christmas without Kenzie, she went skydiving. Every Christmas she ticks a new adventure off her bucket list.

"That was my way of saying 'Something awful has happened, but I'm alive in the world and there are beautiful things still to be appreciated."

Kenzie's Gift has online resources about how to cope and what to say and do – and they also provide one on one family therapy.

Conor (son), Nic Russell and Kenzie

Conor (son), Nic Russell and Kenzie Photo: Supplied

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