As December arrives, many of us are feeling the loss of those we love just a little bit more. For me, this year is far better than last; but the holidays still have a way of making my heart feel heavy.
As I sit here with the Christmas tree lit up, the piano instrumentals in the background, and my own feelings of loss and sadness; I too miss those I love, and I ask myself; how can I be there for those who are grieving? One of the things I have come up with is to write about the ways YOU can be there for someone who is grieving during the holidays.
Remember this; grieving doesn’t always mean someone has died. Someone can be grieving a friendship that has ended, a job that’s been terminated, or a marriage that has fallen apart. There are so many forms of grief, and each kind can feel a little sharper over the holidays.
Here are a few ways to help someone grieving during the holidays:
1. Support their plans for the holiday season:
Even though the one thing we love so much during the holidays is the time we spend with those we love, not everyone will want to enjoy the traditional festivities. Some may want to skip the holidays completely, or may choose to partake in the holiday festivities on their own; perhaps on a beach somewhere. The best thing you can do in support of someone who is grieving is to allow them to decide; assuming the decision does not place them in harm’s way.
2. Invite them to holiday events:
One of the things that I often heard was, “I didn’t want to upset you by inviting you out, when I know it’s so hard for you with out Nick.” Here’s the thing, chances are really good when you ask, the answer will be no thank you. However, the simple act of asking means the world to the person who is grieving. By asking, you are reminding that person that although you respect their decision to decline, you would still really love them to attend. Sometimes when someone is grieving it is hard to manage their anxiety and emotions. Staying in seems like the safest plan of action, but knowing that someone was still thinking of them, makes them feel far less lonely.
3. Don’t offer, just do:
Sometimes the simple act of decorating, baking, or gift wrapping can seem so daunting for those who are grieving. Sometime’s it’s not the task itself that can hurt so bad, but it’s the thought of doing it alone. One way of navigating this can be to make a plan to attend your grieving friend’s home for a visit. While you’re there, casually, and sensitively ask if there is anything they would like to do while you are with them. While you are there, it could be a fantastic opportunity to suggest Christmas decor, or the wrapping of their family members gifts.
Honestly, what seems like something so simple can be a huge sense of relief for your friend. I am speaking from experience when relating to dreadful tasks.
4. Be prepared that plans might change:
As mentioned before, sometimes those who are grieving suffer from immense amounts of anxiety and emotional triggers. Many times someone who is grieving may make plans and change them at the last minute. This may even appear insensitive and inconvenient for those who the plans were made with. Please understand that this is not in anyway an intentional act of inconsideration. Making plans, in general, is an already exhausting task for those who are grieving, so please be gentle on those who can not always follow through. Do not take it personally and know that your support will aid in their healing in the long run, as on top of everything else, they will not have to deal with a sense of guilt.
5. Send a thoughtful note in the mail:
Now when I say a thoughtful note, I am not referring to the hallmark cards in the store that consist of some over used platitude. What I am referring to is a sweet, simple note saying, “I am thinking of you, I am here for you, and it’s okay if you’re not okay.” Obviously, you can write more than that, but try not to over think it. Sometimes all someone needs to know is that you recognize that the holidays may not be easy for them, and you are there. Trust me when I say this, those who are grieving do not enjoy being scrooge. It is not a feeling they have willingly adopted, and I for one had to dig deep to get my holiday spirit back, and it’s not always that easy.
6. Speak the name of those who are lost:
One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is grieving is to speak their loved one’s name, even if it’s not right in front of them. Often people don’t want to “remind” someone who is grieving that their loved one is gone. I will say this a million times over and then a million more times; YOU will not “remind” the person that their loved one is gone. Someone can only be reminded of something they have forgotten, and guess what?
Please speak their name. Talk about them, cry over them, laugh at the memories and remember them for every ounce of who they were.
Every time I hear someone speak Nick’s name I am reminded that his soul lives on and that is the most beautiful gift.
7. Remember, it is not only the first holiday that grief comes for a visit:
For many, the holidays are a time filled with memories. Memories may include family, friends, and colleagues and some memories may have been building since a very young age.
For some, the holidays are a time of celebration, reflection, love, and hope.
Please remember that each time the holidays arrive, so do those smells, sounds, and visions that are linked to so many of our cherished memories. A simple scent of a candle can take a person back to a loved one, a time in their life, or a memory that they hold so dear. Please do not take that moment away by saying or doing something unhelpful. Simply remember that grief has no timeline and love lasts forever. With love comes grief and with holidays comes triggers.
8. Holidays are not for everyone:
This one is one that I can’t speak to personally, but I know is reality for many. Not everyone enjoys the holidays. All I can say here is this; you may enjoy the holidays, and others may hate it. What ever you choose is up to you but DO NOT overflow your opinions, traditions, or choices on anyone else unless they have opened that door for you to share. I recognize that many people may have negative memories linked to the holidays and this can be far too in-depth for any of us to understand. Although I do my best to take in all of the holiday festivities, and find joy in places that sometimes hurt, not everyone can do the same for various reasons; and that is okay. Do not judge, do not assume, and do not provide unsolicited opinions.
Tonight as I sit here in my new home, in my new life, and in a brand new December; I remember, and I miss those I love.
If you are experiencing grief or know someone who is, just remember this; grief is not simple, it is not linear, and no one person grieves the same as another. All you can do for yourself or for those you love is to be gentle, open, and acknowledge that loss is heavy and it is most certainly not easy.
Happy December everyone.
Love, laugh, and live fearlessly.