The holidays are upon us and while many of us revel in the joy family traditions bring, for those grieving a loss, the holidays can hold little joy.
So what should we do for those we care about mourning a loss? Do we send cards? Buy gifts? Try to cheer them up?
For starters, it’s important to understand that grief is very individual and runs its own course. It’s not something anyone can control and the bereaved need to mourn their loss at their own pace and in their own time. Holidays are a particularly difficult time because absences are acutely felt and holidays, with established traditions, demonstrate how much life has changed.
One reader, whose family hosted a holiday meal for friends, continued the tradition the first year after his spouse’s death. But he found it too painful and accepted an invitation the next year, changing the way his family celebrated the holiday. Another reader who traditionally hosted the family holidays decided to leave town for the first holiday after her spouse’s death. Instead of taking care of the family with dinner and presents, she went to a spa and let someone take care of her. It gave her the space to recharge and rethink her role in her family and by the second year, she was ready to create new family traditions.
Your support, especially during the holidays, is important. While cards and gifts are thoughtful, your companionship might be the best gift of all. It’s helpful to initiate a discussion and ask the bereaved what traditional activities they’d like to participate in and what they might be comfortable doing. But only ask if you are willing to make changes to accommodate their feelings. They might like to stick with traditions or, they might like to create new ones. You’ll never know unless you ask.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.