How to Help Friends Who Are Grieving During the Holidays

You may be familiar with the term Christmas blues. It is a minor form of seasonal depression aggravated by stress and sadness that develops from a perceived inability to live up to the perfect holiday ideal reinforced by upbeat messages in commercials and music.

If you are someone who is grieving during the holidays, whether it’s because of a recent death, a divorce or some other significant life change, the cheery sentiment can make things even worse. While you may feel better someday, right now everything feels pretty crummy.

If you have a friend or loved one who is grieving during the holidays, there are several ways you can show him you’re there for him, acknowledge his pain and help him cope through this difficult time.

  • Support your friend but don’t tell him how or what to feel. Grief is intensely personal and emotional, and depending on the circumstances there may be happiness mixed with anger, guilt mixed with sadness, regret with relief or other feelings that may change quickly. Some grieving people may not want to talk about sad feelings right now, but others may want to mix the sad and the happy, according to the AARP. Invite your grieving friend to share what he is feeling, but be prepared that it may change from day to day as he works through this pain.
  • Don’t ask, “What you can I do to help?” GriefShare.org advises asking this general question will usually result in this general answer, “Everything’s fine/I don’t need anything.” Instead, find other ways to lend a hand to lift your friend’s spirits. Maybe he needs some repairs done around the house, or help with decorating or wrapping presents. Your friend may never directly ask for help, but he will likely appreciate a visit or a phone call.
  • Send a gift. Even if you plan on visiting your friend, he still might enjoy receiving a package or a daily reminder that you care. Consider sending a Christmas gift basket from FTD.com, which can be shipped nationwide and includes many special items such as flowers, candy and wine. His spirits will be definitely brightened with this kind of package.
  • Help your friend create new holiday routines and traditions. Acknowledge that Christmas or another winter holiday is never going to be the same as it was prior to the change, but this year could be the start of some new activities. BelovedHearts.com, a grieving resource site, suggests there are plenty of ways to help. If the person doesn’t feel like doing anything, that’s OK too.
  • Keep alcohol away. BelovedHearts.com also recommends keeping your grief-stricken friend from indulging in self-destructive behaviors, which can be tempting due to new pressures and the abundance of alcoholic beverages. Maybe a toast to a lost loved one or to the future is appropriate, but excessively partaking in holiday cheer can result in additional issues and painful consequences.

Posted by CJ Newton, MA, Counseling.info Editor on December 9, 2013 at 06:00 AMTweet

Previous Post | Back to the Mental Notes Blog | Next Post

Visit BetterHelp, our Top rated online therapy provider.