Holiday Grief

Twelve Tips to Help a Grieving Loved One during the Holidays*

Twelve Practical Tips for Saying and Doing the Right Things

The holidays are quickly approaching, and while many people look forward to yearly traditions, gatherings with family and friends and the general good feelings associated with the season, some people dread the holidays.

For those who have lost a loved one during the past year, the holidays may emphasize their grief, reports the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays.

Hospices are valuable community resources that often help people who are struggling with grief and loss. Hospices provide bereavement support to the families they serve; many offer specialized programs to help the bereaved cope with the holidays.

NHPCO offers twelve practical tips from hospice professionals:

  • Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals. Remember, there is no right way or wrong way to handle the holidays.
  • Offer to help the person with baking and/or cleaning. Both tasks can be overwhelming when someone is experiencing acute grief.
  • Offer to help him or her decorate for the holidays.
  • Offer to help with holiday shopping or give your loved one catalogs or suggest online shopping sites that may be helpful.
  • Help your loved one prepare and mail holiday cards.
  • Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and your family.
  • Invite them to your home for the holidays.
  • Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holiday season. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at soup kitchens or working with children, may help them feel better about the holidays.
  • Donate a gift or money in memory of the person's loved one. Remind the person that his or her special person is not forgotten.
  • Never tell someone that he or she should be "over it." Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
  • If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping him or her heal. Don't worry about being conversational…just listen.
  • Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.

In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care. They need to be remembered, and they need to know their loved ones are remembered, too.

Local hospice grief counselors emphasize that friends and family members should never be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, because making an effort and showing concern will be appreciated.

Hospice is a philosophy of care for patients with life-limiting illnesses. A team of professionals and trained volunteers offer care and comfort to patients and their families when a cure is no longer possible. Fully covered by Medicare and most insurance companies, hospice services are available at home or in a facility such as a nursing home.

More information about grief and loss is available from NHPCO's Caring Connections or by calling the HelpLine at 1-800-658-8898..

*reprinted with permission National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization