Five tips for supporting your grieving loved one over the holidays

Happy Holidays! Or are they? The holiday season is filled with twinkling lights and cheerful music, but this may not be reflective of how your grieving loved one is feeling. In fact watching people planning social gatherings and family parties may make your loved one painfully aware that someone who used to be part of their celebrations, is no longer here. It is normal to feel helpless when you’re trying to support someone who is grieving during the holiday season. We hope these 5 tips will help!

  1. Ask the griever what they need from you

First and foremost, ask the griever what they need! Instead of offering unsolicited advice on how they should be feeling, or what they should be doing, try to approach your grieving loved one from a place of humility. Perhaps the griever is ready to celebrate, and wants to drink hot chocolate and look at the lights. Perhaps they would rather hide under the covers until the storm of the holidays passes. Either is okay. When you learn what they need, you can help in a way that is most comforting to them! And if they don’t know what they need (which is common in grief) here are some practical suggestions we hope can be helpful.

  1. Reminisce

The holidays are often accompanied by many memories. Maybe these are pleasant memories, and maybe they are not, but inevitably, minds are racing. Ask your loved one if they would enjoy a trip down Memory Lane! Maybe they’d be willing to show you photos of their loved ones, and talk about holidays they shared together. As a supporter, it is best to recognize that it is not always sunny on Memory Lane; bring an umbrella. Be prepared to celebrate the positive feelings, and validate the not so positive feelings that come up for them while reminiscing. The most important thing is that you show up, and you stay.

  1. Tackle holiday tasks together

If your loved one celebrates a gift giving holiday, this task can feel incredibly daunting. Making a list, shopping, and wrapping presents are tasks that some grievers may enjoy, but others may find overwhelming. You can offer to help by making a list, going shopping or wrapping presents together! You both may find that companionship may create beautiful memories, even during such a hard season.

  1. Cook some favorite foods

For many people the holiday season comes with food! Lots and lots of food! Maybe the griever has a certain dish in mind that their loved one enjoyed. Offer to make this dish together! This may create an opportunity for the griever to talk about their person while moving around the kitchen and smelling familiar scents. If the griever doesn’t cook, and you do, maybe you could cook it for them! If neither of you cook, maybe you can order it from somewhere!

  1. Address holiday cards

It is a busy time of the year for the post office! Maybe your loved one used to send out holiday cards, but they don’t anymore. This could be because they miss their person so much that they don’t feel festive anymore. However, it could also be because while grieving, any small task can feel ENORMOUS! Ask if they want to send holiday cards, and then offer to address the envelopes for them!

Supporting a grieving person during the holidays can be especially difficult. Please find time to exercise self-care! It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup, so make sure to honor your own feelings as well. If you feel festive but your grieving loved one does not, remember that it is okay to do things together, and to also do things separately! The holiday season can be such a complicated time filled with laughter and tears. We hope you’ll find these tips helpful!

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