Caring for the grieving during the holidays: 5 ways to help

Decorating the tree, carving a turkey, or something as simple as a favorite holiday song can be difficult for many of us when we have lost someone in our lives that made it special. The holidays can bring a flare-up of sorrow, loneliness, anger, and other strong emotions.

“I remember the first time we sat down for Christmas dinner after dad died. We did fine until it came time to say the prayer. That was something dad always did.”

It’s normal for grief to come in waves, and to feel heavier when we have so many memories tied to the things we hear, eat, smell, and see.

The grief of loss can sometimes be so overwhelming that a person may not want to celebrate or acknowledge the holidays at all. Recognizing the grieving and finding ways to help can ease the pain for your loved ones, and help them to begin healing.

Acknowledging the grief can be the first step to healing

Sorrow is a normal part of the healing process and can come at unexpected times or last for unknown amounts of time, depending on the person and situation. There are some cases when grief can last so long that it deserves professional help, like seeing a therapist. See the signs of “complicated grief” here.

The good news is that friends and family can help.

But first, it’s important to know and understand what your loved one may be going through. Here are some ways that grief professionals and physicians recommend that the bereaved help themselves heal:

  • Surround yourself with the people that you love
  • Talk about the grief specifically around the holiday traditions
  • Bring back memories by sharing stories and looking at photo albums
  • Don’t be isolated; balance your alone time with social events or activities
  • Recognize the different emotions that you are experiencing, even if they are joy and laughter or sadness and anger

If you are close to the bereaved, you can encourage these actions in your loved one, by just being there and not ignoring the hurt.

Here are some other ways that professionals recommend for you to help the grieving during difficult times.

  1. Create a new tradition or ritual: While it may bring the grieving some comfort to honor some traditions, there may be other rituals that are too painful to continue. But you can create new memories that honor the deceased, like lighting a candle on their behalf, setting up a place in the house for their photo and some of their favorite things, putting a new special ornament on the Christmas tree, or reading their favorite poems aloud.
  2. Help with baking, cleaning, or other overwhelming tasks: Create an opportunity to support your loved one by offering to help, whether they are bringing a pie to a potluck, need help with seasonal decorating, getting their house clean for guests, or doing some grocery shopping.
  3. Invite your loved one to social events: It may feel awkward to attend events alone or at all. Make this step easier by inviting them to parties, potlucks, or religious services. You can also invite them over to your house for the holidays or for a special meal.
  4. Take the time to listen: Talking about it helps the healing process, whether or not the person wants to or is “in the mood.” Be patient and take the time to ask questions and listen. This may mean one visit or multiple visits. The more you show up, the more it will help them to know that they are loved and cared for.
  5. Use creative therapy for grief: Using a grief journal can bring life to a gray world and change the way people feel about themselves as well as their circumstances. A variety of creative activities can bring comfort, including coloring pages, poetry, and reflective writing. Learn about creative therapy for grief here.

Grief Support Groups at Tharp Funeral Home

Tharp Funeral Home grief professionals offer a variety of weekly and monthly grief support groups, including a New Beginnings luncheon. See the full list of events here.

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