Grief in the holidays

Categories: Care.

The NHPCO reports that while many people look forward to festive traditions, those who have lost a loved one during the past year may find the Christmas and New Year periods especially difficult. Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays.   

The NHPCO offers the following twelve practical tips based on the experience of hospice professionals:

  1. Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals. Remember, there is no right way or wrong way to handle the holidays.
  2. Offer to help the person with baking and/or cleaning. Both tasks can be overwhelming when someone is experiencing acute grief.
  3. Offer to help him or her decorate for the holidays.
  4. Offer to help with holiday shopping or give your loved one catalogues or suggest online shopping sites that may be helpful.
  5. Help your loved one prepare and mail holiday cards
  6. Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and your family.
  7. Invite your loved one to your home for the holidays.
  8. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holiday season. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at soup kitchens or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
  9. Donate a gift or money in memory of the person’s loved one. Remind the person that his or her special person is not forgotten.
  10. Never tell someone that he or she should be “over it.”  Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
  11. If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping him or her heal. Don’t worry about being conversational… just listen.
  12. Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch. 

The NHPCO stresses that friends and family members should never be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, because making an effort and showing concern will be appreciated.

More information about grief and loss is available from NHPCO’s Caring Connections website. 

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