We all know that the holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of people. Dealing with grief during the holidays can be exceptionally difficult. While the cheer, happiness and busyness is so big and strong, the grief, memories and realization of loss is bigger too. Supporting someone who’s grieving through the holiday season is intimidating. It must put a weight on your shoulders. It’s scary, what if you say the wrong thing? Do the wrong thing? I get it. I’m obviously not an expert in grief, but I know how life changing it is. I know how difficult it is. I hope that writing this out can help someone, anyone, feel more confident in supporting their friends or family throughout some of their largest moments of grief.
Please ask us how we want our loved ones remembered. Do we want pictures, stories and memories shared throughout the holidays? Do we want some memorial items given or displayed? It’s ok to ask. Some of us may want to include our littles (or bigs) as much as possible. Some may want to just have private moments with their memories. Please don’t be afraid to ask the hard question.
Understand that the holidays will be different. Losing a piece of your heart has consequences. For us, but also for you. It’s ok to acknowledge those feelings. It’s ok to wish things could “go back to normal”. Believe me, we wish they would too. Embrace the change, and approach it gently and with kindness and support. We will all find new normals for the holidays. Will develop new traditions and memories. Change is healthy and theraputic. If we don’t accept the change, and embrace it, healing can’t happen.
Know that social situations can be very difficult. We end up seeing more people around the holidays. More friends, more family. Seeing someone who’s lost a loved one (child or not) is uncomfortable. Especially the first year. As a griever, seeing people who you haven’t seen since the loss can be hard, it’s emotional. So offer us support in those situations. Offer us a quiet place to go to take a break, offer an out if it’s needed. Please don’t be offended if we choose to not attend an event, or need to leave early. The most improtant thing right now is self care. We simply don’t have the energy to worry about offending someone.
If you send a Christmas/holiday card to a family who has experienced a loss, acknowledge the missing piece. A simple “Remembering Killian this holiday season” is a beautiful things. It lets us know that our person hasn’t been forgotten. And that’s what we all want.
Say their name. Please. More than anything, don’t pretend that they were never here. It may be hard, it may be sad and bring some tears. But thats OK. Every single grieving parent i’ve talked to has told me the same thing, “I want to hear their name”, “I don’t want them to be forgotten”. We LOVE to hear our loved ones being remembered and acknowledged.
Don’t be afraid to cry with us. Since losing Killian I found a very common theme. Nurses, staff at the hospital, family, friends, aquaintences and even strangers; everyone has apologized for crying when talking about him. Please don’t. It isn’t offensive or upsetting. If you need to cry for us and for them, do it. We may cry with you. You are crying because you loved them, or loved us, or are feeling compassion for us. That is never a bad thing.
Offer support and help. Anyway you choose to is OK. But please don’t be insulted if we don’t reciprocate or accept. We all grieve so differently. Some of us need help in certain areas, and not in others. Even if we don’t take you up on your offers, they are so appreciated. Just knowing that the support is there is more than enough in some cases.
Don’t make us the center of attention. Offer a gentle, warm and loving space to enjoy the holiday’s the way that we need to right now.
I’m sure there are many other ways that you can help and support someone grieving. These are just a few things that I hope for. Above all else, remember our babes. We wish more than anything in the entire world that they were with us. That they were here celebrating our family traditions and events. So, involve them the only way that we can now, through memories, memorials and acknowledgement.