During the holiday season we easily can get caught up in nonstop, even frenetic activity. For those who have lost a loved one, it can be the most painful time of year. How can they deal with their grief, and how can we help them?
It’s important for them to accept their feelings and not force themselves to do or feel anything that will get in the way of their grieving. Making decisions about how much activity to engage in and how much time to spend with people, on what occasions and in what settings will be one of their biggest challenges.
Think about how often during the thick of the holidays we wish we could slow things down and simplify our lives. Added to that stress is a grieving person’s acute awareness that much of what used to be meaningful and joyous to them is now painful because their loved ones are not there. Then add all the times they see others anticipating, planning and then enjoying such experiences.
People who are grieving need to be patient with and go easy on themselves at this time of year. It often helps to confide in someone about their holiday pain as well as their progress. They can feel encouraged to do so when we give signals that we are open to hearing about their challenging experiences and ready to accept, support and, when appropriate, encourage them to take a difficult step.
If we are not comfortable hearing about their inner struggle, then, at a minimum, we can tune into their signals and refrain from criticizing their choices or pushing them into what likely will make them uncomfortable. This can be doubly difficult depending on how well or poorly we are coping with our own losses in life.
If you know someone who is grieving a recent or not so recent loss, arrange some quiet time or a non-holiday-related activity with them to enjoy being together outside of the seasonal stress. You may or may not talk about their grieving, but such respite can help them heal and not just survive this time of year.