It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Except, sometimes, it isn’t.
How to Handle Grief During the Holidays
Christmastime is one of my favorite times of year. The holidays bring up all sorts of memories, and the general feeling in the air is one of hope and happiness. However, the holidays are not always kind to everyone. Some may be experiencing loss for the first time. Some may be dredging up painful memories. If you, or someone you know, has been affected by loss during this time of year, I’ve got a few helpful hints for how to handle grief during the holidays.
Talk About It
One of the worst things you can do for someone grieving is pretend like they are not. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything awe-inspiring to say. Don’t worry if you can only say, “I’m sorry” over and over again. If a friend or loved one wants to talk about their grief, let them talk. Ignoring the “elephant in the room” will make everyone uncomfortable. Sometimes, talking through feelings can help others to feel “normal” again.
Silence is Ok
Conversely, grief can make folks quiet. Sometimes, there is a need for reflection and introspection. Being present with someone in their grief can be just as important as knowing the right thing to say. If words can’t or don’t seem to come, it is 100% ok to just be with your friend or loved one. Silence can seem uncomfortable, but it may be necessary.
Help, Don’t Just Offer It
Just like new moms who are overwhelmed with all things new baby, grief can overwhelm too. Friends or loved ones may be focusing on arrangements if the loss is new or they may want to retreat from the world during this time of year if the loss is not as present. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Start a meal train and encourage others to help you. Take your friend out for coffee or offer to keep their kids for a few hours. Small gestures really make a difference.
Finally, and probably most importantly, remember them. Remember your friend or family member who has passed. Remember your loved one who is grieving. New losses are not easily forgettable. As the years go by, life moves on; and, often, people move on too. If you were not personally connected to the grief, it may not occur to you how difficult this holiday season will be for the rest of their lives. Most people I speak with, including myself, want to remember their loved one as often as possible. This goes hand in hand with talking about it (and possibly even the silence). Knowing you have not forgotten the person who passed may be just as important to the griever as your being present.
Above all, realize that everyone processes grief differently. This year, Christmas without a loved one will have a new meaning for me. While I am saddened to be parted from my loved one, I can empathize more fully with others who are also experiencing sadness during the holidays. Hold your loved ones close and remember those who cannot.