3 Tips to Help You Help a Grieving/Lonely Loved One or Friend Through the Holidays.
I love the holidays, from Thanksgiving on, I am in the mood for all things cozy, bright, sentimental, festive, and fun, with friends and family!
It’s a time of gathering and celebration that’s full of laughter, hugs, gifts, and making memories.
To me, it really is the most wonderful time of the year!
And that is precisely why it can be the most dreaded time of the year for those who are missing someone they love or who feel all alone.
For those dealing with a recent loss, whether it is from a death or someone who finds themselves alone following a divorce, or those who are currently isolated because of the pandemic, or any other kind of stress or trauma, the anticipation of all that merrymaking, laughter, celebrating and fun, might be more than one can handle.
It can bring about feelings of near panic as the days lead up to the holidays. Or it could make them feel extremely sad that they will be spending these holidays alone.
We need to be cognizant of those people. They could be family, friends, co-workers or neighbors and they may seem fine on the outside, but on the inside they could be a wreck.
So what can you to do help someone you care about during the holidays?
Here are 3 tips to help you help them navigate what can be a tricky time of year:
1. Ask them how they are feeling and take a cue from their answers.
The first thing is to simply ask them how they are feeling about the holidays this year.
Do they feel like celebrating?
What are they looking forward to?
What are they dreading the most?
Do they plan on participating this year?
Maybe this is a good time to see if they might like to join you or your family.
2. Allow them to be undecided.
If you are planning any special gatherings, by all means, invite them.
People always want to feel welcomed.
Some will be very grateful for the invitation as many fear being alone, but for others, the last thing they want is to be around other people regardless if they know them. So don’t be offended if they say no.
Also don’t be offended if they decide to attend but then need to leave early.
Just keep in mind people who are grieving are oftentimes exhausted.
It can be a real struggle to get up and get dressed on a regular day, so having to get up and get dressed up for a holiday celebration might seem too overwhelming.
Likewise, if they made the effort, once they arrive it might just be too much and they might feel too overwhelmed with emotion to stay. Don’t make a big deal out of it, thank them for coming and call and check on them the next day.
3. Accept the way they chose to celebrate or not celebrate.
Where this gets dicey is when people assume they know what’s best for the griever. You might feel it’s best if mom is surrounded by family that loves her. But you are not her. Ask how she feels and be ready to accept what she tells you.
I had a friend who told her children she was not celebrating the holidays after losing her husband that year. And while her children were a bit confused and upset, she did not back down.
She told me after, she felt the only way she could survive was to hole up someplace where there were no reminders of family holidays and so on December 23rd she checked into a small hotel out of town. She filled the time with a few books and some dinners and did a lot of crying, until she checked out on December 26th. But she proved to herself she could survive the holidays, she just had to get through them this first time, her way.
The next year she was able to celebrate with family.
Likewise, you might assume someone who lives solo, might not want to celebrate at all or that they have someone else to celebrate with. That might not always be the case.
A quick phone call and invitation might be all they need to believe in the “Magic” of the holidays again.
Just remember, grieving is not a one size fits all.
Everyone is on a different timetable and everyone deals with grief differently.
Some get through by wanting to be with people, others get through by needing to process things alone. One is not better than the other, it is just different. And by recognizing this, it will help you to be better able to love someone through what could be the most difficult time of the year.
For more information on how to help your loved ones through many of life’s difficulties, pick up a copy of “How Can I Help?- Your Go-to Guide for Helping Loved Ones Through Life’s Difficulties”
Sherrie Dunlevy is a wife and mother of two sons, one here on earth, the other in heaven. She is also an author, speaker and the founder of the “Graduating Grief” community on Facebook.
For a signed copy of her book or to hire Sherrie to speak at your next meeting or event contact her at SherrieDunlevy@gmail.com