Reach out if feeling lonely

WITH the all-encompassing push to feel good over the festive season, those who have lost those close to them can feel particularly vulnerable, according to local bereavement councillor Del Marie McAlister.

A former nursing home chaplain, Mrs McAlister points out that these kinds of emotions are not uncommon and people should not feel alone.

"Literally thousands of people will be facing their first Christmas without a loved one," she said.

Where to get help

Feelings of loss can also be just as strong for those who have lost family members many years in the past.

"While over the years the intensity of the grief subsides, the Christmas season reawakens our sorrow," she said.

"Each year as I decorate our Christmas tree I have a little cry as it reminds me of when Dad and I used to decorate the tree together, and it's been 23 years since his passing."

Mrs McAlister suggested those experiencing such feelings reconnect themselves to their loved ones.

This could be through sharing stories and memories with others, taking fresh flowers to their grave or planting a tree in their honour, or perhaps writing a song, book, or poem about their bereavement journey.

"Most importantly, don't grieve alone. Reach out for support from friends, family, workmates and neighbours. Let them know how you are feeling," she said.

Try not to "bottle up your feelings", she advised.

"If you are feeling very low, you can also phone Lifeline and have a chat to a caring person."

Lifeline volunteers are well accustomed to assisting with feelings of loneliness and isolation during the Christmas period, according to Northern Rivers centre manager Niall Mulligan.

"In our work as a bereavement support group, we know that Christmas is a very difficult time," he said.

"It's often a reminder of family members that are no longer with us.

"When family members have departed under difficult circumstances, that's something which concerns us even more."

Lifeline volunteers will be staffing the Northern Rivers on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Where to get help

Grief and loneliness support lines:

Lifeline: 131114

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement: 1300 664 786

National Association for Grief and Loss: 02 6882 9222

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

Bereavement Care Centre: 1300 654 556

StandBy Response Service: 0417119298 (suicide bereavement support)

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