Life-changing events can affect people in different ways. Harriet Bremner asks that we remember and care for those at the crossroads.

Conversations are spinning, online and face-to-face about the world, our beliefs and at a time of year that can be especially sensitive – especially when there is grief of some sort involved.

While most people have exciting things planned over the festive season there are those who, for whatever reason, are not looking forward to it or perhaps even dread it.There was a time when I just wanted my birthday (which is a week before Christmas and a month to the day before James passed), I went from absolutely loving Christmas and New Year to dreading because suddenly my life changed.  

Think about the friend who might potentially be at a crossroad with where to go or what to do this summer. Maybe they have been recently widowed, maybe their relationship has broken up, maybe their children are spending the first new year away from them, maybe they are single and want to be in a relationship, maybe they can’t have children, maybe they have lost a parent… the list could go on. 

We can grieve many different things in our lifetime and we can be pretty bloody good at hiding how we truly feel as well, often to our detriment as those around us won’t notice the struggle. 

Picture what your life would be like if you were in the shoes of a friend who may be struggling and ask yourself what would you want your friends or family to do for you? It could be that you invite them to spend time with you on your camping holiday or you make the effort to go and spend time with them.

I liked to be kept really ‘active’ during this time of year so ensuring my days off work were full of activities were the best thing for me and my mindset. For example, boating. A favourite pastime of mine – there is nothing like the fresh air rippling through you as you cruise across the lake or up the river, coupled with good food, good chat, swimming and fishing. These days were lifesavers – especially when I didn’t get forgotten about. 

I really struggled with this time of year after James died. I had been in our relationship since I was 18 years old and it had never mattered that we didn’t have concrete plans. Once I was on my own, not only was I grieving and grappling at survival most of the time, I was also left feeling very reliant on friends, hoping they wouldn’t forget about me.

It was particularly hard when people were doing more ‘couple’ type activities that it hit home to me hard, making me feel more alone than ever. Even if I was invited to do a daytime activity, the empty feeling that rose up inside me once I got home was awful. 

We can be quick to judge others, when it comes to their beliefs, behaviours and decisions. I follow a few different grief sites online as it is always good to hear people’s different stories. 

People who have lost someone, especially a spouse in this instance, are often judged very quickly by people about moving forward with someone new. 

The same person can be told it’s too soon or they should have already moved on or it’s the wrong person or even that they’re disrespecting their late spouse – and the list goes on. These are people whose lives have been thrown into utter turmoil. Destroyed. 

So if you know someone grieving in any way shape or form, be kind and judgement-free. They are already battling with so many emotions and simply need support and kindness. 

Christmas and New year, anniversaries, long weekends, weddings and more are scary times for those missing key people in their life. It exacerbates grief tenfold as it is far more obvious that they are missing and not coming back. 

Although you do in fact have a million things to do and are flat out in festive mode, you are bound to have a friend who will really be struggling and the kindest thing people can do is to make some time for them and include them. I will never forget those gestures from people in my life and some of them were so simple. 

In a time where people’s opinions seem to be flying left, right and centre, try not to judge and criticise. Instead look at yourself and think about your own goals and maybe making empathy and kindness part of them.

Have a wonderful and happy summer, be grateful for those amazing people in your life and treasure today like it is your last.