The first holiday without a loved one can be especially challenging for those who have lost a spouse and their families. While the world seems to be filled with holiday cheer, a grieving spouse can quickly feel left behind or overwhelmed with grief. Although it is important to be respectful of your loved one’s wishes, it is possible to make flying solo easier for anyone who is grieving. Here are a few simple tips that can show your loved one they are surrounded by support as they prepare to experience their first holiday without their beloved partner.
Make Sure Your Loved One Has Holiday Plans
Many families celebrate the holidays by gathering with their family and friends to share gifts and food while enjoying the wonder of the season. However, it can be easy to overlook guests when making plans for these holiday events. Even if your loved one has always attended your seasonal celebrations, it is important to check in with them to make sure they know they are welcome. If they are hesitant to attend, then appoint a caregiver who can keep them company while allowing them some space to grieve.
Consider Doing Something Different This Year
Spending the holidays in the same environment can sometimes trigger additional grief due to association with the lost spouse. If holiday celebrations were always held at their house, someone who is grieving may also not be up to hosting an event. Before making plans, talk to your loved one about how they would best like to spend the holidays, and let them know it is okay to try something different if it will ease their pain.
Allow Time to Grieve and Express Emotions
Even if a person lost their spouse in the beginning of the year, the arrival of the holidays can trigger strong emotions. Allow your loved one to express their feelings and provide them with opportunities to cope with their grief. For some people, a short walk alone helps them feel better. Alternatively, your loved one may just need someone to listen while they pour out their heart. After the emotions have passed, gently try to bring your loved one to a happier state by moving on to another topic or get them engaged in a holiday activity.
Implement Strategies to Prevent Depression
The holidays can bring on bouts of depression for many people, and those that have lost a loved one recently are at greater risk. Therefore, friends and family members of someone who is grieving should remain alert for signs of depression such as withdrawing from favorite activities or increased sleep. Making sure that your loved one’s physical needs are taken care of is one way to prevent depression. Arrange for meals during this time and be sure they have assistance with daily activities such as bathing if necessary. Then, be sure to surround your loved one with positive support every day so they know they are never alone.
Share Memories of the Loved One Who Passed
The missing chair at the dinner table can be hard to overlook, and it is important that your loved one knows their spouse is remembered. If it is okay with your loved one, consider sharing stories about the different memories everyone has of the loved one who passed. Some families also find it soothing to include a few family photographs of the spouse who passed that can spark conversations. If there has always been a dish that that person requested, then go ahead and serve it. Recognizing the contributions this member of the family made can be reassuring to the surviving spouse.
In the midst of planning holiday celebrations, it is important to remember those among your family and friends who have lost a loved one this year. Although they may have begun to make strides to overcome their grief, the holidays can often spark a new flood of emotions. By talking to your loved one about their holiday plans, you can create a special event that makes them feel included. Then, be on alert for signs that the holiday memories are proving too much so you can make accommodations that will keep your loved one healthy and surrounded by support during their first holiday without their spouse.