Dos And Don’ts If You Know Someone Who Is Injured or Suffering Through a Loss During the Holidays (or really anytime)

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For most folks, the holidays are a happy time filled with laughter, family, friends and fun.  But for those who are injured or who have lost a loved one, the holidays can be an especially painful time.  Their present situation contrasted with the version of how things used to be can make the holidays nearly unbearable.  If you know of someone who is injured or who is grieving the loss of a loved one, here are some suggestions on how to help.

  1. Acknowledge their loss whether it is in the form of an injury or a death.  Simply having the supportive presence of friends and family can make a huge difference.
  2. Take them a meal.  This is a gesture that promotes physical and emotional well-being. It does not have to be anything fancy.  In fact, comfort food is king in these situations and will let that person and their family know they are thought of and loved.
  3. Do not ask them about the accident.  If they want to talk about it, let them and listen with a tender heart.  But, do not pry. Your curiosity takes a back seat to their privacy and emotional state.
  4. Don’t demand a different emotional state from them.  Healing and grieving take time.  Well-intentioned comments such as “Cheer up. It is the holidays” can often make the person feel guilty for bringing others down or make them feel like their feelings and suffering are not valid.
  5. Ask if you can help them with anything such as laundry, wrapping gifts, grocery-shopping, yard work, errands.  Drive them to a doctor’s appointment or a therapy visit.  Even just a little help can go a long way for someone who is injured or suffering with a loss.
  6. Follow the circle of grief theory, which goes like this:  the injured person or grieving person is in the center of the circle.  The next circle would be occupied by the people closest to the injured or grieving person which is often a spouse or children.  Additional circles are added for other relatives, friends, church and work colleagues, etc.  From here, the concept is easy and straightforward: comfort in and dump out.  In other words, the injured or grieving person can dump out but only comfort goes in.  At the next layer, spouses and children provide comfort in to the injured or grieving person and they can dump out to work colleagues or other relatives.  For a more detailed discussion of the theory, click here.
  7. Make a note of especially hard days: birthdays, anniversaries, anniversary of the accident or death, etc. and be sure to reach out on those days even if it is just a quick text to let them know you are thinking about them and asking if there is anything they need.
  8. So often we want to say the right thing so we end up saying things like: time heals all wounds or they are in a better place.  These trite expressions often end up aggravating the ones we hope to comfort.  Instead, consider something like: I am sorry you are hurting.

We hope these tips can help you help someone else get through the holiday season.   And we hope that everyone enjoys a safe holiday season.