Helping Your Loved One Cope
(for family and friends)


      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.


1.      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?"

2.      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.

3.      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.

4.      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 you."

5.      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.

6.      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.

7.      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.

8.      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.

9.      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.

10.  Find your own creative ways to say, "I love you" as you thoughtfully consider the needs of your bereaved loved one during the holidays.