Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grief and the Holiday Season

There is a club to which many of us belong.  We didn't ask for membership. We didn't want membership, and we never want to see our friends join the club.  

Until a person becomes a member, he or she has no quantifiable way to understand how it feels to be such a member. The club is reserved for those who have dealt with loss on such a scale that "grief and grieving" aren't strong enough words to describe a member's raw emotions.

When people are lucky enough to have not yet been initiated, they may say things to members like, "Cheer up!  You'll feel better, soon!" or "It's been years.  Shouldn't you feel better by now?" Every so often, these lucky folks will even say, "My dog died when I was in high school, and I still miss her sometimes," or "When are you going to snap out of it?"

Although these sorts of comments are meant to help cheer the grieving, they more often than not do not. So what can the uninitiated say to the initiated to help ease them through what might be a difficult holiday season?

Here is a rundown of the two most common bits of advice offered by a variety of Web sites.

Assisting the Grieving

If the person just lost someone, identify a need the grieving person may have, like a need for a ride to the store or church, a tissue, a meal, or a batch of freshly laundered towels, and humbly help the person with that need. Offer that particular service, or depending on your relationship, you may feel comfortable jumping in to help.  If the person is experiencing grief or sadness because of the loss of a loved one in the past, you may want to ask what he or she might need or might want to do to honor that loved one during the holiday season.

Listening to the Grieving

Also, be sure to refrain from trivializing the loss by uttering platitudes such as "It was for the best," or "We all need to move on," even if the death took place several years prior.  Perhaps support the grieving person by letting that person speak while you listen.  On the other hand, the person may simply want to remain silent while you are there, in the person's presence. Recognize that everyone's grief and grieving process is different.  Avoid comparing your loss with that person's loss or telling the person how he or she should feel "because it's Christmas" or "because it's Hanukkah."

Most importantly, watch for warning signs of depression, and kindly encourage the person to seek help if necessary.

Although the holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, those people who have been initiated into the "grief and grieving" club may need a little more help from their friends than others, may need a little more time for quiet reflection than others, or may just need a hug or two extra. With sensitivity and compassion from friends and family, everyone can have a happier Hanukkah or a merrier Christmas.

Want to read more about the holidays?  Try

Using the Nice Dishes
It's Time to Count My Blessings (Instead of Sheep)
Crochet Christmas Tree Ornaments

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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