When a friend or someone you care about is grieving, it’s often difficult to know what to do or say - especially if you haven’t experienced similar grief.
We are often unsure of how best to lend support, which often makes us feel uncomfortable, even a bit fearful, that we won’t choose the right words or actions.
That fear can actually be a stumbling block to saying anything at all.
As hard as it may be to overcome your discomfort, acknowledging the loss and grief they are experiencing is critical to their healing process.
After the death of a loved one, grief becomes a part of a person’s holiday season not just the first year, but every year after that. Even though things may get a bit easier, there will always be elements of any holiday that will cause sadness and continue to be difficult.
Here are three ways you can be supportive to someone grieving this holiday season.
Honor and Support Their Choices
It’s not always easy to take part in the usual holiday festivities for someone who’s grieving. They may choose to fly to Hawaii, ignore the holiday all together, or spend the day watching movies.
Try not to be too disappointed or concerned. Keep in mind that this change in plans may only be for this year, not forever.
It’s still perfectly wonderful to extend holiday invitations, but be sure to be clear that you absolutely understand if they aren’t up for it. We don’t want to assume they don’t want to come, and you may find that the invitation is exactly what they needed.
Offer Practical Holiday Help
Most of us are quick to say, “Let me know what I can do.” That’s lovely, but it can be very helpful to offer something more specific.
There are many ways you can assist during the holidays in a practical way.
You can offer to help with shopping, gift wrapping, and the preparation of Christmas cards. They may want to send a letter with the card, but may struggle to put their thoughts on paper, so offering to assist may be quite helpful.
It’s also nice to offer help with holiday baking, taking kids to school functions, and even planning and preparing the holiday meal, along with clean up, of course!
Listen Without Judging or Minimizing Their Grief
Be there for them to vent, complain, and talk-through their feelings over the holidays.
Just listen and support them.
Don’t offer unsolicited advice about what their grief should look like or how long it should last. Grief is very unique to each person.
Do ask them to share memories they have with their loved ones around the holidays, and don’t shy away from mentioning their loved one by name. Sharing those memories and even photos will help their focus turn towards the wonderful life lived and can offer them comfort.
Finally, do your best to avoid the usual clichés such as, “He’s in a better place,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” They can often minimize the loss and emotions the grieving person feels.
Instead, say things like “I’m here to listen if you want to talk,” or “It’s okay to feel whatever emotions come up. It’s very normal and appropriate.” Do your best to say things that acknowledge their loss and struggle.
Bottom line….Don’t be afraid to be there for someone working through grief this holiday season.
Any act of kindness, love, and support is absolutely perfect.