During any holiday, those who have lost a loved one often feel a sense of dread where excitement and anticipation used to live. No matter where you go, seeing decorations, signs, cards, or gift ideas - can bring back the intense stinging of tears to your eyes and an unmovable lump in your throat.
For those who’ve recently lost a loved one, any holiday can seem more like something to survive than to enjoy. The traditions and events that can add so much joy and meaning to the days turn into painful reminders of the loved one is not here to share in them.
Things that might be helpful when grieving during holidays:
Keep traditions that were meaningful to you and your loved one. Keeping traditions will eventually bring warm loving memories and less of that initial stinging in your eyes you may feel those first few holidays.
Crying is ok. Tears are not bad. Most of us grieve through crying, tears are the pieces of love being released out into the world because you cannot give them to the person you’ve lost.
Jamie Anderson’s great quote “Grief is all the love we have with no place to go.” sums this up very well.
Create new traditions too. Try a new way to celebrate and honor your loved one. A special seat at the table, a lit candle, or special prayer can help change the atmosphere from ‘something is missing’ to ‘something is being remembered and cherished’, and remember that creating new memories does not erase old ones.
How can you help a friend who is grieving during the holidays?
In her article*, “What Grieving People Wish you Knew at Christmas,” author Nancy Guthrie writes, “While those of us who surround grieving people can’t fix the pain of loss, we can bring comfort as we come alongside those who hurt with special sensitivity to what grief is like during the holidays.”
Check-in on them - often the first few weeks after a loved one's passing we are surrounded by many people asking if we’re alright and offering help. Those first holidays, however, especially if they are months after the loss, grieving friends can feel lost and forgotten. Invite them to the holiday dinner, help them celebrate those new traditions or cherished moments.
Offer to help with baking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping - often times the most basic of things can feel overwhelming when grieving. Having a little bit of help or companionship in accomplishing those things can go a long way.
Talk about their loved one - don’t be afraid to talk about someone who has passed, it reminds those of us who have had great love that those people did exist and were extremely important parts of our lives.
Listen Attentively - understand what their words and body language are saying. Responding and reflecting on what’s being said can be incredibly comforting to someone who is grieving. It can help them process their feelings better than holding them in.
Be patient - everyone grieves differently and the amount of time it takes to get through the stages of grief is different for everyone, which is why it’s important to give people time to heal and not rush them through the process.
Pray with them and for them - offering to pray with for a friend in moments of grief can provide them with a sense of company and comfort.
Grant, O Lord, to all who are bereaved the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have strength to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience; not sorrowing as those without hope, but in thankful remembrance of your great goodness, and in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. And this we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
-The Book of Common Prayer