What’s not to like about the holidays? The vibrant colors, favorite foods, visits with loved ones, opportunities to reminisce, and wonderful smells of the season. Holidays are full of tradition, packed with memories, and bring so much pleasure. For all these reasons, holidays can be a minefield for the bereaved, leaving them feeling sad, left out, and lonely.
Is there something you can do that will lift the sadness and make them feel better? While the bereaved need to mourn their loss, there are ways you can make them feel less isolated and more connected.
It can be difficult for the bereaved to reach out, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you. Take the initiative and call. If no one answers, leave a message, for example: “Hi Beth it’s Amy. Just checking in to say hello. You can call me back or I will give you a call again. Looking forward to talking with you soon.”
There is nothing like a personal visit to help someone isolated begin to regain their footing. Extend a concrete invitation with several dates, for example, connect with the bereaved by phone or email and suggest a visit with alternative dates. You can say, “I would like to visit with you and have time on Wednesday or Friday morning. Which works best for you?”
Whether you call or visit, give the bereaved a chance to talk, and then listen. Put away your cell phone, face the bereaved, maintain eye contact, and actively listen. Nod as the conversation moves along and use encouraging phrases, such as: “I can see that,” “I understand,” or “that must be so hard.”
There is nothing like a note (postal or email) that says “Thinking of you.” You can write a short message, but the point of your note is to let the bereaved know they are well thought of and not forgotten.
The bereaved may choose to shun the holiday celebrations, not feeling up to all the gaiety. But they might appreciate an invitation to a dinner at your home or out, morning or afternoon coffee, a walk, or a movie. Your goal is to provide some companionship and a change of scenery.
Ask the bereaved if they would like to participate in any holiday events. If not, think of other ways to include the bereaved that are not holiday-oriented. Ask them to join you while volunteering, attend a local lecture or concert, or take a walk.
Whatever you choose to do, your effort will help friends and loved ones grieving a loss know that they are not alone.
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 as e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "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.
Photo: Melinda Stuart via photopin