Things To Know Before Saying “Merry Christmas!” To A Grieving Person
It can be exceedingly difficult to know what to say to someone facing grief and loss during the holiday season. For many people, defaulting to “Merry Christmas” seems most appropriate in the absence of a better option. However, before you utter this common phrase of the season, there are a few things you should thoughtfully consider.
A Bereft Person May Be Having Trouble Remembering Why Christmas Should Be Merry.
When someone is feeling overwhelmed with sadness and loss, the idea of joy and merriment can seem completely foreign. The hope and excitement that many people experience during the Christmas season can easily be replaced by despair, making “Merry Christmas” a greeting that can sting, even when you have the best intentions. Instead, consider something like: “I know this holiday may be difficult – I’m thinking of you.”
Even Traditionally Happy Moments Still Feel Very Sad.
It’s common for grieving people to do their best to put on a brave face. It’s important to remember, though, that even a smile or laugh aren’t necessarily signs of happiness. Opening presents, singing joyful Christmas songs, or spending time with family and friends are supposed to be happy times, but a grieving person’s perception may be very different. In these settings, rather than “Merry Christmas,” you might be better off with a thoughtful reminder like, “It’s ok to feel however you’re feeling this Christmas. I’m here for you.”
A Grieving Person Often Feels Very Much Alone, Even In A Crowd.
Many grievers feel pressure to keep up appearances, so they attend holiday parties and other social engagements where they’re expected. However, just because a bereft person is going through the motions of Christmas festivities, it doesn’t mean they’re feeling merry in the least. In fact, for many people facing a loss, social engagements magnify feelings like loneliness and sadness. Reaching out with a heartfelt, “How are you doing today?” is more appropriate than “Merry Christmas” in these circumstances.
Christmas Greetings That Fail To Acknowledge A Loss May Do More Harm Than Good.
A common concern for many people is whether they should broach the topic of loss with a person traversing a difficult grief journey. It can feel risky to mention a lost loved one but remember that a bereft person is always thinking about their loss anyway. You aren’t reminding them of something they’ve forgotten. In many instances, it can be healing to mention the lost loved one by name and share a memory. While wishing a griever “Merry Christmas” can feel like glossing over their loss, a thoughtful remark like, “I missed his beautiful singing voice during caroling this year,” can bring a sense of peace and healing.
Your Expectations Of The Holiday May Be Different Than Theirs.
When you’re not facing a loss yourself, it can be hard to put yourself in a griever’s shoes. Try to avoid projecting your expectations on them, be it for “normalcy” or a focus on gratitude for the people they still have. Know that “Merry Christmas” may not feel at all right to someone in bereavement and consider something like, “I’m happy to observe Christmas with you in whatever way you’re up for this year.”
Do you have suggestions based on your own experience of grief during Christmas? Please share below.