How To Support Someone Who’s Grieving During The Holidays

old holding handA friend of mine who volunteers for hospice wondered out loud a couple of weeks ago: “Why is it that more people die around the holidays?”

“Really?”  I asked. “Is there actually data to support that?”

Turns out, there is. A group of sociologists analyzed death certificates between 1979 and 2004 and determined that deaths do actually increase around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

The holidays are a time where we are all expected to be thankful, joyful and celebrating. Yet for so many, including the family of a friend who died last week, the holidays can also a time of profound sadness and mourning.

Whether a loved one dies during the holidays or at another time of year, their loss becomes more poignant on occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

If someone you know is grieving this holiday season, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers the following helpful tips:

  1. Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to do things differently.
  2. Offer to help the person with decorating or holiday baking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving.
  3. Offer to help with holiday shopping. Share catalogs or online shopping sites that may be helpful.
  4. Invite the person to join you or your family during the holidays. You might invite them to join you for a religious service or at a holiday meal where they are a guest.
  5. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
  6. 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.
  7. Be willing to listen.  Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping some cope with grief and heal.
  8. 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.

Essentially, be a good friend.

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