Thursday, 5 December 2013

How to Help a Friend Who Is Grieving During the Holidays

When a friend loses a family member, it is natural to want to reach out and help him through the grieving process. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know exactly what to say or how to help the bereaved. The truth is that just being there for your friend is the most important thing. You probably won't be able to take away his pain, but your support during this extremely difficult period will be invaluable, according to "Helping Others Cope with Grief," a guide published by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Schedule Time to Be Supportive


Your friend will need lots of support to get through the first holiday season after the loss of a loved one. Although you may feel overwhelmed with gift buying, decorating and various social engagements, it is important to set aside some time for your grieving friend.
If your friend's loss actually occurs during the holiday season, offer to do the following:

  • Arrange for food to be brought to his house. Email an online sign-up sheet, such as SignUpGenius or Take Them a Meal, to friends and neighbors of the bereaved and ask them if they would be interested in providing a meal. With these customized online sign-up sheets, you can avoid inundating the grieving family with multiple meals in one day while making sure they aren't left without food on another.
  • In your email, make a suggestion to purchase a restaurant gift card, which is a good option for people who aren't comfortable cooking for others but would like to help out the grieving family.
  • Psychology Today suggests that you offer to watch the grieving person's children or to walk his dogs. Your friend will be busy trying to make funeral arrangements, picking out a coffin, or possibly hosting and taking care of out-of-town guests. Although he may not ask you for help, your friend could probably use it to take care of routine chores and tasks.
  • Give the gift of time. Offer to take your friend out for coffee or drinks. He may just want to talk, so hear him out.
  • Invite your friend over to celebrate the holidays with your family. If he is single, he may feel especially alone at this time and want company. If he has children, he may not feel strong enough to follow through on traditions, so invite his family over for a holiday dinner or help him decorate.

Be Aware of the Grief Process


Remember that it's not just a recent death in the family that can make a friend feel down during the holidays. A one-year anniversary of a close family member, such as a father, mother or child, can be emotionally wrenching. The holidays also open up the wounds of those who have lost a family member earlier in the year.
If you speak to your friend on a regular basis, listen closely for signs that suggest he may be having difficulty dealing with the holidays without his loved one. Look also for any evidence of depression on your friend's social media pages, such as Facebook. For example, if your friend frequently mentions that he is incredibly sad, reach out to him. If you don't live close to your friend, send him a thoughtful Christmas gift basket from FTD.com with a special note telling him that you are thinking of him.

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