Friends and relatives sometimes fail to realize how
significant they can be in enabling the grieving to get through the holidays.
More distant acquaintances will absent themselves in their own flurry of
holiday activity. Many simply acknowledge that they don't want to face pain
during a time that is traditionally joyful. You can be a healing agent to those you love this holiday season.
Following are suggestions to help you.
Ask to help with specific tasks. "Call me if you need me" is
not a useful offer. Instead say, "I'd love to do some shopping for you
when I do mine. May I?" or "I imagine decorating the house will be
hard this year. Could I come help you or do it for you some morning?"
Be a good listener. The holiday will draw out deep feelings for
surviving families. Many will feel they must talk about their loved one. Hear
their feelings and accept them. Learn to be comfortable with silences and
don't feel you need to interrupt them.
Learn from your loved one without instructing. To say, "I know how
you feel" when you don't or to explain how you think he or she feels is
presumptuous. Asking is always better than telling.
Avoid clichés. Out of your desire to make things better, it is
tempting to try to turn negatives into positives. Phrases such as "It was
God's will," "He/she had a good life," "He/she is out of
pain" are nearly always resented, even though your intention is well
meaning. A better response is 'This must be a very difficult time for
Practice love with no expectation of reciprocity. Understand if your
loved one doesn't have the physical or emotional energy to be outwardly
grateful for your help.
Write a holiday letter. Many things can be said on paper, which are
difficult to say in person. A letter can be treasured, read again and again,
and kept forever.
Invite the bereaved to social outings. Don't assume he or she should go
or wouldn't go. Simply ask, and accept the response. It won't hurt to ask a
second time a few days later if the first response was negative, but the
decision is still theirs.
Give a gift or make a donation in memory of the one who has been
killed. It will mean a great deal to the surviving family if the gift relates
to the values and concerns of the deceased.
Mention the name of the one who has been killed often. It is folly to
think that it stirs up pain. The pain is already there and the opportunity to
talk about the one they miss so much will be cherished.
Find your own creative ways to say, "I love you" as you
thoughtfully consider the needs of your bereaved loved one during the