While many people look forward to the holidays and yearly traditions, gatherings with family and friends, and the general good feelings associated with the season, some people dread the holidays. For those who have lost a loved one during the past year, the holidays may emphasize their grief.
The holidays, especially the first ones after losing a loved one, are especially difficult for one who is grieving. 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.
Many people are not aware that their community hospice is a valuable resource that can help people who are struggling with grief and loss. Hospices provide bereavement support to the families they serve and often offer services to other members of the community as well.
Here are 12 steps to help you help a loved one who is grieving this holiday season.
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.
2. Offer to help the person with baking and/or cleaning. Both tasks can be overwhelming for one trying to deal with raw emotions.
3. Offer to help him or her decorate for the holidays.
4. Offer to help with holiday shopping or give your loved one catalogs or online shopping sites that may be helpful.
5. Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and your family.
6. Invite your loved one to your home for the holidays.
7. Help your loved one prepare and mail holiday cards.
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. 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.
In general, the best way to help those who are grieving is to let them know you care. They need to be remembered, and they need to know their loved ones are remembered, too.
A free, six-week grief support group begins on Thursday, Oct. 15 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Blount Memorial Home Services and Hospice building adjacent to the hospital’s campus for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. For more information or to register, call 865-981-2291.
Michelle Evans is the outreach coordinator for Blount Memorial Palliative Care. She leads a support group for women who have lost their mothers through death and helps organize adult grief support groups throughout the year.