Christmas is just around the corner! That means a time of celebration, joy, a time of love and cheer. A time for all the fun Christmas festivities and making memories with our family and friends through sharing food, stories and banter.

And while most of us are busy preparing for all these things, it’s easy to forget how lucky we really are. For some people, Christmas time represents none of these things. It can be a time of loneliness and grief.

Why Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year

In 2017, the Australian Red Cross launched its ‘Season of Belonging’ campaign after finding that a massive 1 in 4 Australians experience loneliness on a regular basis.

During the Christmas period, many of us will be grieving the loss the of loved ones, or it may be a time for re-living relationship breakdowns. “Grieving the loss of a loved one is a deep and difficult challenge at any time. But the holiday season can magnify your sense of loss and mourning. Family gatherings and seasonal events can be painful reminders of loss,” GriefLine CEO Catherine Cini said.

GriefLine is a national telephone service to lend support to people who are grieving, isolated or experiencing financial difficulties, and they register an increase in people reaching out as the festive season approaches.

“Often the calls are instigated by intense loneliness from those who are spending their Christmas alone to people whose loved ones have died and they are now being bombarded by invitations from well-meaning friends and do not know what to do. I urge people not to isolate themselves,” Miss Cini said.

What is an Inclusive Christmas all about?

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Celebrating an Inclusive Christmas is about using the holiday celebration time with friends and family to build awareness of loneliness and social isolation, and understanding of people who may be more vulnerable or alone around this time of year.

We can never really know what’s going on in the lives of people around us. So it’s important to remind ourselves that some people might be going through a difficult time this festive season. One of the things we can all do more of is extend some love, kindness and understanding to those around us.

“Loneliness doesn’t have to be a constant part of so many lives - all it takes is one person to reach out and brighten up a person’s life,” Australian Red Cross CEO, Judy Slatyer said.

How you can be more Inclusive this Christmas

At this time of year, Australians embrace a wonderful spirit of generosity. So let's harness that and start doing small things to help make everyone feel like they belong.

Here are a few ways we can be more inclusive:

1. Reach out

Reaching out to someone you may think is struggling can go a long way. "If you think that somebody might be struggling in your network, just ask the 'are you OK?' question - that we only seem to focus on one day a year - and show genuine concern," says Kerry McGrath, Director of Community Programs at Australian Red Cross.

2. Extend an invitation

A simple invitation to Christmas dinner is a thoughtful way to make someone feel included and connected - and can really make the world of difference to someone who is socially isolated.

3. Be warm and encouraging

Be a listening ear if they want to talk about their feelings, and encourage them to do something fun to take their mind off things or to do something that involves treating themselves.

4. Make new traditions

If the person is recently bereaved or separated, help them make new Christmas traditions and celebrate with other people in their life, Ms McGrath said. Ask them what they might like to do.

As Buddy the Elf famously said “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing for all to hear!,” so we’re singing out for your help to truly make this the most wonderful time of the year - and together, let’s celebrate a more Inclusive Christmas!

Like Family is battling the issue of social isolation by offering social and community support services for people who are unwell or feeling lonely due to ageing, illness or disability. Join our community to provide or receive support today.