If Your Friend is Grieving this Holiday Season
The journey through grief is a personal experience, unique to each of us. It makes it a challenge to know how to support a grieving friend this holiday season. Many people suffer from the fear of saying the wrong thing, so even the most well-meaning of us can be a true loss for words – sometimes just when a friend needs our comfort most.
When words fail, we look to acts of support instead. However, it’s not always clear how to take action to support your friend either. Oftentimes, the best support comes with a sense of balance; support in either word or action, coupled with a respect for your friend’s privacy.
If you’re struggling to find the right way to support your grieving friend during the holidays, consider the following suggestions:
Let your grieving friend know that you care.
For many people, the worst thing a friend can do is nothing. So, make sure you ‘show up’ for your friend in some way. It can be as simple as a thoughtful card – not one that extolls holiday joy and celebration – but one that lets them know you understand they are hurting and that you’re there if needed as they face a holiday season without their special person.
It may feel uncomfortable bringing up the subject of loss, but talking openly about their loss may be just what your friend needs – and what no one else is providing for them. Ask genuine questions about how they’re feeling, and whether they’d like to share anything, then simply sit quietly and listen for as long as they need you to.
Make an invitation.
Many grieving individuals don’t have the energy to attend large holiday parties or face crowded stores and restaurants. Instead, invite your friend for a simple cup of coffee or a casual walk. A break from their normal routine can help them to step outside their grief for a brief time and allow them to enjoy your companionship without feeling too much holiday overwhelm.
Don’t rush your friend through their grief.
Everyone’s journey through loss is different, and on a unique timeline. While it may be tempting to remind your friend of the joys in their life this holiday season, never pressure them to deny their sadness and pain or move on from feelings they are still processing. You may not understand their mood or emotions, but support them by practicing acceptance and non-judgment.
Acknowledge that this holiday season is different.
Pretending that everything is normal and going through the motions of a typical holiday season can prove incredibly painful for a grieving person. Be the friend who acknowledges that things are different this year, and let your friend know that they aren’t bound by the usual holiday expectations. Share that you understand they’re dealing with an incredible challenge, remind them of their strength and offer to be there for whatever they need.
Loss is difficult any time of the year, but the holidays shine a spotlight on the absence of the people we loved most. Since grief is so personal, it’s important to respect a grieving friend’s boundaries and offer privacy, but also to be the friend who shows up, offers support and is willing to feel a bit uncomfortable in order to make the holidays more bearable for someone dealing with loss.