Helping Those Experiencing a Loss Over the Holidays
Talking to friends who may have lost a loved one over the holiday season can be tricky. Most people don’t know what to say or feel helpless when their friends grieve in front of them. However, those in grief often benefit from the support of friends and family, so it’s important to offer help at the time of the year that can be most painful for those experiencing grief.
It’s important to note that there are many different ways to grieve. There is no set time limit for grief, and emotions may cover a wide range from sadness to anger. Don’t try to limit your loved one by forcing them to go through what you think of as ‘grieving.’ Instead, allow them to scream, rant, and cry so they can process what has happened and slowly recover from their loss. Your presence and gentle advice is welcome, but your judgement and orders are not. Keep that in mind as we outline some basic ways to help a grieving friend through the holiday season.
Invite them to join your festivities. Those in grief may not have the energy or will to celebrate the holidays the way they use to. Take the initiative and ask if they want to join you so they aren’t alone this holiday season. Don’t force them to join you if they don’t want to, but offering will help the bereaved feel more connected socially and can help alleviate the loneliness after a loved one has passed.
Bring them a holiday dish or gift. If they don’t want to join you for the holidays, the bereaved may still appreciate a small gift or holiday dish, especially since they may be too tired or sad to put in the effort to do certain things for themselves. It shows that you are thinking of them while they are going through this tough time without making them feel bad about asking for help.
Invite them to a religious service. Many holidays have a religious theme, and inviting a grieving friend to come with you to a religious service may bring them some comfort. Sometimes just extending the offer or telling them that they are included in your prayers can bring comfort, especially if your friend practices a different religion than you.
If they are celebrating with you, allow them to leave early. Sometimes people who are mourning the loss of a loved one may feel overwhelmed by social situations, especially if their loved one often went with them to these occasions. If the bereaved is uncomfortable after a while, don’t pressure them to stay until after dinner or the children open presents. Just let them go and wish them a happy holiday. They will appreciate being able to participate in the fun until they need to calm down by themselves when they get tired or emotional without interrupting the festivities.
While it’s hard to watch a friend struggle through grief, know that it is an important and healthy process. Their health comes before holiday fun. Being gentle but inclusive can help a grieving friend feel a little better this holiday season.