10 Ways To Help A Grieving Friend During The Holiday Season

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10 Ways To Help A Grieving Friend During The Holiday Season

Caregivers deal with lots of anticipatory grief and loneliness, even during the holiday season. If you feel awkward not knowing what to say around your grieving friend, here are 10 ways to be more supportive:

  1. Listen – They might be telling you what they need. It’s extremely hard and brave to ask for support. So, if someone asks or even hints about what they need, run with it. Be sure to take it as a huge compliment if they reach out to you.
  2. Say their name – Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – talk about any memories you might have of their loved one. One of our greatest fears is that they will be forgotten.
  3. Extend an invitation (over & over) – Including someone who is grieving in your plans is a terrific gesture. Sometimes they may not come to the first event, but they probably will join eventually in coming weeks or years. Don’t give up on them. It takes time and energy to grieve. Let them know that they are welcome to come and need not worry if they change their mind at the last minute. Also, welcome them to stay as long as they want and remind them that they can leave whenever they choose. Including and accepting someone who is grieving is a gift that enriches your friendship circle for many years to come.
  4. No pressure – Everyone grieves in their own ways and on their own schedule. Hold space by listening and being there. It’s that simple. Judgements and negative comments such as “Get over it.” or “Are you still grieving?” or “Isn’t it time to see a therapist?” are NOT helpful. You too will understand – one day!
  5. It’s the small details – Grieving is really lonely work, so provide support with simple gestures that are comfortable for both of you. Bring over a cup of coffee or a relaxation candle, offer to help hang decorations, babysit, go on a walk together or plan a fun zoom chat. The acts do not have to be large or time-consuming for someone to be reminded that they are valued.
  6. Talk – It may be difficult to begin a conversation, but it will be much appreciated. Here’s a good way to begin the dialogue. Just ask, “How are you doing now?”. It’s a simple question that allows as detailed an answer as the responder would like to give. Because the question is about ‘now,’ it takes away the burden of thinking too much about the answer. And, best of all, you can use the same question over and over. Try it!
  7. Reach out – Yes, you are busy, but can you spare a few moments to make someone feel special in your day? There are so many ways to stay connected in today’s social media savvy world. Connection is important for those who grieve. They are often isolated and filled with self-doubt and guilt. Remember, your text may get them out of bed on a gloomy day because they are reminded that someone still cares, and they are seen.
  8. Ask for help – It sounds like the absolute wrong thing to do, but it’s not. Realizing that their advice is needed reminds the bereaved that they still have something to offer. Don’t feel that you can’t go to your friend because their loss is so much larger than your problem. Everyone wants to feel needed and valued.
  9. Create new memories – These can be cherished and added to the old memories. Often traditions can be very emotional and difficult to follow. Sometimes they are abandoned for years or even forever. How wonderful it is for everyone to be included in making new customs!
  10. Repeat – It doesn’t matter if they are in their first month of mourning or 10th year. Grief lasts a lifetime. It may ebb and flow, but it is always there below the surface. So be patient and continue using these tips annually during the holiday season. They can also be of value during long weekends, summer days, milestones or any other day on the calendar.

Although the holidays may not be “the most wonderful time of the year” for everyone, and in time, we shall all grieve. It is so important to learn how to help the bereaved and shatter the taboos surrounding death and grief.

Here’s hoping this list can begin the process!

Written by: Susan Kendal

Social media handle: @evolvebeyondgrief

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