For many of us, the holidays are a joyful time to celebrate together with family and friends. Yet for those who have recently suffered the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be an especially difficult time. What are the best ways to support someone who is grieving during the holidays?
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), a nonprofit organization that advocates for improved end-of-life care, offers some guidance to help those who don’t know what to say or do for a grieving friend or family member. The NHPCO’s hospice professionals offer these suggestions:
- Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to do things differently.
- Offer to help the person with decorating or holiday baking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving.
- Offer to help with holiday shopping. Share catalogs or online shopping sites that may be helpful.
- Invite the person to join you or your family during the holidays. You might invite them to join you for a religious service or at a holiday meal where they are a guest.
- Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
- 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.
- Be willing to listen. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping some cope with grief and heal.
- 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.
For more information about NHPCO and their resources on grief, loss, and hospice care, visit www.nhpco.org.