Look around you- holiday shopping, events, and celebrations are in full swing. Unfortunately, not everyone finds the holidays to be a joyous time of year. For many, this is the first holiday without a loved one. The grief can be overwhelming and feelings of loneliness can seem enormous .
If someone you love is grieving, what can you do to help? First, it’s important to know that everyone grieves differently. There is no way to understand exactly how someone feels. Sometimes, we find ourselves avoiding the person or not speaking about “the elephant in the room.” We often don’t know what to say, so we say nothing. However, there are a few things NOT to say-even though they may seem to be helpful. These things include:
1. “I know how you feel.” Try “I don’t know exactly how you feel. But, I wonder if you are feeling _________ (lonely, angry, sad, lost).” This gives the griever permission to share how they feel.
2. “It was God’s will/plan” or “God is in control.” This implies that God “did this.” Maybe try, “I pray that God comforts you in this difficult time.”
3. “He/She is in a better place.” This may or may not be true. But, the griever probably wants their recently deceased loved one with them. This doesn’t stop the extreme loneliness.
4. “You have to be strong for ____.” Insisting that someone who is grieving behave a certain way is cruel and mentally unhealthy. Frankly, being strong may not be possible right now.
5. “What can I do for you?” This question comes from a good place. However, it’s not uncommon for the bereaved to not know what you can do for them. Try asking about specifics, “Can I bring you dinner?” or “Can I take care of ____ for you?” Sometimes, just being beside the person and saying nothing is the best thing to do.
6. “You’ll get over it soon.” Grief is not something that you “get over,” but rather something you “get through.” The bereaved will never be the same and it is unlikely that the feelings of pain and loss will ever go away. They may lessen or be less severe over time, but they are not going to “go away.”
Finally, if you are grieving, what can you do to make this time a little easier? Again, grief is different for everyone. Some of these suggestions may help, others may increase your feelings of grief. Do what works for you. You are the only one that knows what makes you feel better.
1. Take time to do the things that you used to enjoy.
2. Memorialize your loved one, but only if you think that will help. Continue with traditions or, if it’s too painful, create new ones.
3. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough sleep, and eating protein, fruits, and vegetables. Take time to be alone, if you need it. And, if you need to be around others, ask a loved one or a friend to stay with you.
4. Talk about your feelings. Keeping your feelings inside can often make you feel isolated. Sometimes sharing memories of your recently departed loved one can bring happiness and make you feel closer to your loved one.
5 . Take flowers to the grave site or memorial site.
6. Look at old photos and videos.
7. Donate a few of your loved ones old belongings to a charitable organization.
8. Journal your feelings, do an art project, or try something new.
May you and those you love have comfort, peace, and safety this holiday season.