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Helping Your Loved One Cope With Loss During the Holidays


My husband is my rock. He has supported me through some very difficult days. Now, it’s my turn. We lost my father-in-law in June and found out we were pregnant in July. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions ever since then. We’ve been so busy that it’s been a rare occasion where he’s had the opportunity to stop and even consider giving himself time to grieve. With the holidays coming quickly, he’s been forced to face some of his feelings head-on.

Grief isn’t pretty. It doesn’t conveniently schedule itself for when you have time, or when you’re ready. It comes and it goes. Some days, when you’re least expecting it, it hits you like a brick wall.

I’ve dealt with my fair share of grief in life, but I haven’t lost a parent, and I will never even begin to pretend I know what my husband is going through. Just as I would never pretend I know what he’s going through, I would never attempt to know what is best for your loved one as they are grieving. But here are a few ways I’m doing my best to support my husband through this holiday season:

Be present. You know your loved one. You typically have a sense when something is bothering them. Without pestering them, let them know you’re there if they need to talk. They won’t always take you up on it, but just knowing someone is there is often a huge comfort when grieving.

Listen. Really, really listen. When they are ready to talk, respect that they’re trusting you with very private, raw feelings. Get off your phone. Turn the TV off. Listen.

Be respectful that they may not be super in the holiday spirit this year. You want to watch “Elf” on repeat, deck every hall, and spread glad tidings…but your loved one isn’t feeling it this year. Consider toning it down a little this year. I’m not telling you to be a grinch. I’m just saying to not expect your loved one to be as into it this year as they usually are.

The holidays bring up a lot of memories of loved ones that can be really emotional and difficult. Think of ways to honor their lost loved one. Ask if they’d like to start a new holiday tradition where you do something in memory of the person lost. If they feel comfortable with this, tell stories about some of your favorite memories of that person around the holidays. Another option might be getting or making an ornament in memory of that person. (There are tons of instructions on Pinterest, but I like this one a lot. There are a lot of things you can do to let your special someone know their loved one will always be loved, honored, and remembered.

Love them with everything you’ve got. Gather every ounce of love you’ve got and give it to them. Grief comes in so many different forms, and your loved one may experiencing a whole bunch of them all at once. They may be sad, mad, or not expressing much emotion at all. Remember it’s not about you. Do your best to show your love.

For more resources on dealing with grief, visit helpguide.org.

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