Dear Annie: A friend of mine lost her husband on Christmas Day, a few years ago. Since then, she’s usually spent the holiday with her sister and family, but she mentioned that this year they would be going away.
So we’ve invited her to come to ours – and spend Christmas at our place. With three kids, two dogs and various relatives, it is going to be lively to say the least! She knows us all well and I think she’s looking forward to joining us.
Yet I can’t help thinking about the feelings that Christmas Day must bring back for her. Should we carry on as usual? What should we do, or say? – LL
Annie says: First, tell her your concern. This will get it out in the open and give her the opportunity to tell you any of her expectations for the day.
Second, absolutely carry on as you would. I suspect the thing your friend would like least is to feel that everyone is holding back on her account. This would feel like an enormous burden on your friend. That doesn’t mean being insensitive to her feelings during the day – you can host a fun and lively Christmas and also make space for her and her feelings.
Remember, it’s not a bad thing if your friend gets upset. It’s natural, and inevitable and doesn’t mean she won’t also be enjoying it. We sometimes struggle to hold conflicting feelings, and often try and split things into either being good or bad. But it’s never that simple. So let your friend know that she doesn’t have to put on a brave face and let her also enjoy how wonderful your Christmas is.
If you’ve lost someone close to you, or been affected by a bereavement, psychotherapist Annie Broadbent is here to help. If you have a question for her to answer in this column, write to her at DearAnnie@funeralguide.com
Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.
She is the author of bestselling self-help book We Need to Talk About Grief, inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.