How to Care for those Experiencing Grief during the Holidays

The holiday season brings with it certain nostalgia. The cooler air is filled with memories of family gatherings, friendly meetings and a general coming together with those we love. There is an expectation of sorts to be merry, to be carefree, to be whimsical. Yet, for those of us dealing with the loss of a loved one, the holiday season often amplifies the pain and sadness already lingering in their absence. As we move through December and into the new year, be mindful of those near to you that may be struggling through this season. Here are some specific ways we can extend care for those experiencing grief this year:

·Reach out and remember: Sending a card, extending a phone call, sharing an invitation to coffee all serve as fairly simple ways to communicate you care and haven’t forgotten about the person’s loss during the holidays. Offer to help bake or decorate or shop for gifts. These tasks can be overwhelming for someone that is dealing with raw emotions. Especially if time has passed since the loss, you may unintentionally forget that the holidays can be hard.

·Do not avoid the topic: It can be uncomfortable to inquire about difficult situations, yet leaning into the discomfort can help someone who is grieving talk about the event, and the gesture relays that you are truly interested. Questions such as, “How are you doing?” “What is difficult right now?” “What do you need during this season?” can open the door to conversations someone may not bring up otherwise.

·Listen, listen, listen: As you engage in conversation with someone grieving, listen without preparing how you will respond. This is not a time where you have to be conversational. However, if you are comfortable, share what you are feeling as he or she continues to share, or even how you may relate to his or her loss. Try to connect with the feelings of hurt, the feelings of pain, and avoid attempting to solve or fix it. It is risky to share about a sad or difficult topic if you do not believe you will be heard. Letting the other person know you hear him or her and are ok with being with there in that moment of grieving goes a very long way.

It can feel scary to ask or inquire about a person’s loss. However, making the effort and expressing concern is often appreciated. Additionally, some folks may request to not talk about their loss, but still be thankful you asked. Respect where the person is in terms of dealing with that circumstance. Anger may accompany the sadness and often it is not personal towards you. As you offer support, honor how the person chooses to respond and trust that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays while navigating a loss.

When we go through difficult times, we often isolate and disconnect from the things in life we need. Maybe you are going through a hard time. Maybe a loved one is. Whatever the case, connecting with others can give us hope for a different future. Talk with someone, sit with someone and explore some possibilities to have a very different chapter in life. Reach out to us at i360 at 214.733.9565.

Written by Lindsay O’Connor, LPC – Client Advocate and Therapist at i360