by Emily Tonn, RMHCI
Entering the holiday season brings anticipation of traditions, festivities and creating new memories with family and friends. For people experiencing grief, the holidays can be an especially challenging time of the year. If someone close to you is experiencing loss or grief, you might struggle with the best way to support them.
Grief is unique and no one person experiences grief the same way. Following are some tips that could help you support someone close to you. Not all will apply to your situation. When in doubt, the best source is the other person.
- Let the person who is grieving talk about their loved one and share memories. You can respond naturally by joining in if you share the memory or simply experience the memory with them. Likewise, if applicable, continue to share your own special memories of this person.
- Even though this is considered a season of “cheer,” if your loved one feels sad, let them feel sad. When people are grieving they are focused on the here and now. It’s important for them to experience their feelings and emotions. You don’t have to say anything—just be there for them.
- You, however, don’t have to “act” somber or sad during holiday events or gatherings that they are a part of. Be your genuine self.
- Instead of asking “how are you doing,” try to ask more specific questions or use a statement such as “I don’t want to ignore how you are feeling or what you might need, so just know that if you need anything please know I am here for you.”
- Understand that they might not be able to do everything they did in holidays past, but don’t hesitate to still invite them to events or gatherings.
Grief can go on for a number of years or come and go at different times. There is no established time limit. While you could be struggling with how to best support your loved one, they too might feel unsure of how to act around you or best express their grief. As with all communication, no one can read another’s mind. If you are the supporter, when in doubt, ask how you can best support your loved one. If you are someone experiencing grief share with those around what you need to feel supported.