Thanksgiving is the pinnacle holiday for families, generally speaking, and a time of coming together with loved ones. As families make travel arrangements, gather Grandma’s best collection of holiday recipes, and bundle the kids up for the journey to the homes of relatives both near and far, the season itself seems devoted to togetherness.
For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be difficult to bare and a deeply felt time of sadness. The whole world seems consumed with holiday cheer, and every place we look is filled with lights and decorations. Holidays can make those who are grieving even more aware of the loss.
As we stand by our bereaved friends, we may wonder what we can do to help them through this time, while offering some grief support, acknowledgment, and hope.
Helping a Grieving Loved One During the Holidays
Ask for input – It may seem obvious, but sometimes in our desire to “fix” or alleviate the pain our friend or family member is feeling, we can make assumptions that perhaps aren’t true. Not all in bereavement need or want the same types of support. Some people may choose to even try and jump into the holidays with a positive spirit, in order to create some normality in their lives, while others may prefer to mourn as a healing mechanism. By asking how you can help, you show your consideration and respect for personal preferences.
Extend an invitation – If your friend or family member is alone during the holidays, or if you are unsure of his or her plans, extend a heartfelt invitation to a your home, church service, meal, or other gathering. This a nice reminder that your loved one does not have to be alone, if ready to be amongst friends and others who care.
Offer practical help – Sometimes offering pragmatic assistance with dinner preparation, cleaning, dog-walking, and other chores and tasks can be as effective as emotional support, depending on the needs of the individual.
Make an in memoriam donation – If your loved one has a favorite charity or cause of choice, you and your family can honor the memory of the deceased by making a charitable gift in his or her name, with a card or token of this act of respect given to your loved one.
Invite your loved one to volunteer with you – Sometimes lending a hand at a local food bank, shelter, or church can help to elevate the spirits of a person in mourning. Being around others and focusing on ways to contribute is a wonderful way to help divert attention from what’s missing to what is possible.
Pull up a chair – In the modern world, where multitasking and busyness is the norm, we seem to leave little time for active listening,. Spend an afternoon with your loved one and simply listen over a cup of tea or sharing in the holiday baking. This simple act can be incredibly appreciated and healing.
Offer to help with holiday decorating – A wreath on the door, some festive arrangements around the home, and other holiday touches can sometimes help a person feel more connected to the season, warmed by the colors, smells, and sights so typical of the season.
Remain advice- and opinion-free – As good-intentioned as we may be in making suggestions or offering advice, try and maintain an open and accepting attitude. After all, grief and the time it takes to mourn, is different for each of us.
Remember the good times – Instead of avoiding talking about your loved one’s deceased family member or friend, it can be soothing to encourage him or her to speak freely about those cherished times together.
Live for today – Not everyone who’s experienced a loss wants to be treated differently, and may even be offended by too much kid-gloving. Again, when in doubt, ask. Through open communication, you’ll be certain to provide the kind of support needed.