The holiday season can bring new or different waves of grief for those who have lost a loved one, especially if it is the first time celebrating without them. But how can we provide comfort and solace for the ones who need extra support?
Those who are grieving need to know they have support, so even if they pull away, don’t give up. It may take time for them to reach out to you. You can’t take away the pain of the loss, but your presence will help. Small gestures like sending a text message, a card, cooking a meal, are all ways to show your condolences and support for your friend or loved one.
Here are some things to keep in mind during the holidays when interacting with someone who is grieving:
- They’re going to have good days and bad days. Understanding that we can't expect them to be fully themself, or to be able to act the way they normally would on holidays can help those who are grieving feel like they don’t have to put on a brave face.
- They may not show up at all, but they should be invited. We can’t hold those grieving to any expectations because healing from grief is not linear. There will be good days and bad days, but in order to show our support, we can continue to include them without expecting them to come. Knowing they are still invited, thought of, and loved are signs of support they need.
- It’s okay to speak about the deceased. It may bring tears, but those grieving may be afraid that their loved one’s memory will be lost because no one talks about them. Talk about happy memories of past holidays, honor those good memories, and allow emotions to come up without shame or hushed words.
- Listen instead of offering advice. You can offer hope for better days and easier holidays to come but giving them space to express their grief is a wonderful gift. Avoid telling them what you think they should do or how you think they should be grieving. Everyone’s path is different, so unless they ask you specifically for your advice or input, try to be an active listener instead.
- Create a new tradition or a way to honor the deceased. Holidays are about traditions, family, faith, and love. Ask your grieving loved one if they want to light a candle, say a prayer, or create a new tradition to honor the deceased during the holiday celebrations. This can bring comfort to all and help those grieving to feel like their loved one is still there during the holiday.
Grief during the holidays can bring out a wide range of emotions. Those grieving may need extra support, extra reminders of gatherings, extra time to process the days. They need to know they are loved and supported, and that the deceased is not forgotten. Be flexible with them and understand they may not be ready to fully participate but know there is hope for brighter holidays in the future. Want to do something extra special for your grieving friend or loved one during the holidays? Check out our August blog post on creating a grief care package for a friend.