Do you know someone that’s not feeling ho-ho-ho about the holidays? I bet you do. Although the Christmas season can be a festive time for many, there are people who don’t feel joy! They are grieving
This time of year can be a struggle for many of us, for so many reasons!
- The first Christmas after a painful divorce.
- The loss of a child, changing the holidays forever.
- Not being able to be with family due to illness, distance or other reasons
- Money issues that make it impossible to celebrate.
- Holidays that bring up painful childhood memories.
- Being lonely, having no one to share time with.
The list of reasons is probably a lot longer. Unfortunately…
But do you ever wonder ‘What makes grief so intense, especially during the holidays?’
It’s because there are more stimuli that remind people of what they wish was ‘different, better or more’ in their actual reality.
What are stimuli?
Internal ‘stimuli’ are pain and hunger, for example.
External ‘stimuli’ include touch, vision, smell, taste, sound, and balance (equilibrium). These sensory stimuli are activated by external changes.
So when a trauma happens that changes someone’s life forever, it causes a psychological, but also a biological reaction in the body. To explain it simplistically: the cells memorize that experience and store it in the ‘library’ of our brain. When we feel pain, it literally changes the behaviour of our organism! The sight, the smell and the sound trigger our (negative) memories.
Since Christmas and New Year celebrations are usually shared with loved ones, a lot of things bring up thoughts and feelings.
Think about it.
- Does the smell of delicious food remind you of someone?
- Does the sound of Christmas music take you back to special moments in your life?
- Does the sight of Christmas decorations bring up feelings or memories for you?
Does the hugging remind you of someone very dear you miss?
So you see, there’s simply that to remind people of past holidays. And for many of us celebrations often trigger painful reminders about our reality.
So if you know someone that is having a hard time right now, be kind. Don’t judge. Instead of telling them to be happy (which is what most people do), support them with every inch of your heart. And if you don’t know what to say, don’t worry. That’s what this blog is for!
Most people have good intentions, so let’s add some tools to your toolbag so you can support the people in your life better! They deserve it.
1. Keep intellect out of it. What does that mean? Grief is a matter of the heart, not the head. Intellectual statements such as, “Your ex was a jerk, you’re better off without him” or “life isn’t fair” may be true, but it doesn’t make the grief any less painful.
2. Be a heart with ears. Remember that grievers are not broken, so they don’t need to be fixed. They simply want to be heard with respect, dignity and love. Try not to interrupt, judge or analyze. Just listen! You’d be surprised by how few people do this.
3. Don’t suggest drinking, binge eating or other ways (sex/ drugs) for them to avoid their bad feelings. The longer people ignore their feelings, the longer it takes for them to get over it. And simply put, there’s no way to recover from grief without feeling painful emotions.
4. Ask them if there are any holiday traditions they want to honor OR if they want to create new ones. Then help them to do so.
5. Reach out. Pick up the phone, visit if appropriate, send a direct message, but never avoid someone that’s heartbroken. It’s a common misassumption that grievers want to be left alone, but that’s not always the case! A friendly message can mean the world to someone who hinks he/ she’s alone in it.
6. Envolve them. See if they want to participate. One of the biggest problems with grievers is isolation. Isolation makes them feel worse.
7. Don’t know what to say? How about the truth! For example, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.”
8. Ask them what happened. You may know the story, but grievers want to be listened to. So ask and be quiet. Even if there are long awkward silences! Simply be there and listen.
9. Tell them about healing methods (therapy – coaching – grief recovery book). It’s always possible to recover from loss or pain, and to start a life with new goals.
Bring your light and kindness to the people who need it! It’s the most precious gift to receive.