For those mourning a loved one – whether a recent death or one long ago – the holiday season which is customarily marked by celebrations and family gatherings can be full of painful reminders that heighten the sense of loss. Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support someone struggling during the holidays.
Here are some tips:
1. Be understanding and supportive if someone wants to do things differently this holiday season. Some
people find strength in long established traditions while others may
choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to
do things differently.
2. Offer to help with decorating or holiday cooking.
Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving or
overwhelmed by events going on in the world around us. Lending a hand
can be a great way to let someone know you’re thinking about them and
3. Invite someone to join you or your family during the holidays. If
someone you know seems down or depressed, consider inviting them to
join you for a holiday concert, religious service or a holiday meal
where they are a guest. You might even offer to accompany them on a
holiday shopping trip where a friend and extra set of hands can be
4. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays.
Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen,
staffing a coat drive, or working with children, may lift your spirits
and help everyone feel better about the holidays.
5. Never tell someone that he or she should get ‘over it.’
It can be important to acknowledge that a friend or loved one is
struggling. Don’t discount their emotions, but give the person hope
that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
6. Be willing to listen. Don’t
avoid someone because you don’t know what to say. Active listening from
friends and family is an important step to helping someone coping with
grief or overwhelming feelings of loss. Letting them share their
feelings can help healing.
7. Don’t be afraid to remember someone who has died.
When someone is grieving, it is okay to let them know that you are
thinking of the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are
great ways to stay in touch.
8. Follow up after the holidays to check in.
Given the activity of the season, some people may make it through the
holidays without any issues but they might find the post-holiday period
to be more difficult. So circling back after the holidays to see how he
or she is doing can help.
Hospice and palliative care professionals have always recognized the
need to provide emotional and spiritual support to those who are dealing
with loss. Hospices often offer support to community members struggling
with grief or loss so those struggling should check with a community
hospice to see if support is available.
To learn more about grief or coping with loss, or to find a hospice and palliative care provider in your area, visit NHPCO’s CaringInfo website at www.caringinfo.org.