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How to help a grieving friend through the holidays

Do you know someone who has lost a loved one?  Has a friend of yours suffered the death of an important person?  Do you feel unsure of what to say or what to do to make it better for them during this season of holiday cheer?  Here are some tips on how to support your friend through this hard time of the year:

  1. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your friend’s loss in front of them. By mentioning their loved one’s name, you let your friend know that you are thinking of that person too and that you recognize the difficult time they’re having.
  2. Don’t assume that your grieving friend wants to be left alone or removed from party invitation lists just because they’ve had a loss. Give them the option of choosing how much or how little they would like to participate in the holidays. Ask them what you can do to make the holidays easier for them.
  3. Offer to help your friend with decorating, holiday baking, shopping or gift wrapping. Grief is an energy zapper and getting holiday tasks complete may seem insurmountable when living with loss.
  4. If you’re having a party and are inviting someone who is particularly sad this season, consider having a quiet, private area where that person can step away from the crowd to collect their thoughts and feelings.
  5. Try to encourage your friend to take care of themselves. Discourage alcohol and drug use. “Having a toast in memory of the deceased” could quickly spiral into poor coping and unhealthy habits.
  6. Understand that there are no magic words to “fix” someone’s grief. When your friend gets upset in front of you, it’s okay if you don’t know what to say to them. Sometimes just sitting beside someone or offering a hug is what’s best.

Sometimes the holidays can be particularly difficult for anyone who has had a loss, regardless of how long ago their loved one died.  Certain songs, foods and traditions can trigger memories that could send anyone into a brief moment of grief emotion.  Sitting through those moments, acknowledging the thoughts and the feelings endured and then refocusing on the current reasons for celebration may help keep a positive atmosphere through the season.

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About the Author

The authors who write for Grieving and Growing are licensed mental health professionals specializing in grief and bereavement. For more information please go to http://www.grievingandgrowing.com

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