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Tips for supporting Friends and loved ones through grief and loss During the Holidays

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

It's hard to believe, but the holidays are upon us. Or, as I like to think of it, the season for formulaic romance holiday movies that never should have been made, but I cannot help but watch. Every holiday season, I witness the struggle many clients and loved ones face, especially after a recent loss or painful experience in their lives. So often, they suffer in silence and find it difficult to let people around them know they need support. I also know that most people want to help, but may not know their support is needed or be unsure what to do if they are aware. Many people have difficult associations with the holiday season, finding this a challenging time each year, and they can really use some extra love, tenderness, and support (keep in mind, they are likely not going to tell you they need it). Others may be experiencing difficult times, including job loss, financial hardship, loss of relationships, family struggles, health concerns, and countless other experiences that make the holidays especially vulnerable. I would like to take this opportunity to honor those who might need some support in the next 6 weeks, by offering tips on how we can all reach out and support our friends and loved ones who may be struggling this holiday season.

Here are some tips and considerations to inspire you to reach out and offer support

  • Reach out with phone calls, send notes, cards, texts, emails, and offers to meet for coffee or walks

  • Be inclusive

    • Find out if they have plans for the holidays, and invite them if they don't

    • Even if you think they'll say no, invite them anyway

    • If they say no, let them know the offer stands if they change their mind

  • Support their decisions for how they decide to participate (or not)

  • Be patient

  • Offer grace if they need to change plans or need to cancel this season, even at the last minute

  • Inquire about their traditions and if they need support keeping them going or letting go

    • Do they need help decorating, hosting, getting a Christmas tree, or hanging lights?

    • Do they need help planning, shopping, or preparing a holiday meal?

    • Do they need help navigating gift-giving for their children or other loved ones?

  • Ask if they would like to memorialize or honor their loved one or experience, and would they like support doing so

  • Keep the meal train going

    • Planning, shopping, and preparing meals requires a lot of energy that people who are in pain often don't have~the struggle continues for months and months for many

    • If you are making a meal, consider doubling the recipe (soup works great here) and dropping off some of the extra to your loved one

    • Restaurant gift cards or meal delivery (DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, etc) can be a great support

    • Pool your resources with other family and friends and hire a personal chef for a month to prep meals in their home

  • Offer help with daily tasks or needs around the home

    • Pool resources with other family and friends and hire a housekeeper for a couple of months

    • Arrange for yard care

    • Help them get their car serviced

  • Give a parent(s) a night off by offering to entertain the kids with a game night or a holiday event

  • Listen

    • Oftentimes people are afraid to upset someone who is grieving or experiencing a loss, so they avoid asking or talking about it. Please ask if they'd like to share or talk about their loved one or experience.

  • Drop off a wreath, send flowers, deliver treats or small gifts

  • Make a donation in honor of a lost loved one

  • Consider that grief comes in many forms and often goes unnoticed. Keep an eye out for friends and loved ones experiencing the following:

    • Loss of a loved one

    • Divorce/End of a relationship

    • Loss of a friendship

    • Loss of a pet

    • Miscarriage

    • Infertility

    • Transitions (moves, job changes or loss, retirement, children leaving home, etc.)

    • Health and physical changes

    • Financial insecurity

  • Keep in mind, grief is not linear and can look different each holiday season and often be experienced for many years to come. Some years may be harder than others, so consider checking in with your friend or family member about how they are doing this year.

  • If I have missed helpful support tips, please reply to this email so I expand my understanding and help others. I would love to hear from you about your insights and experiences.

If you or someone you love have experienced a recent loss or painful experience, we offer brief EMDR therapy intensives to help process acute pain and intense emotions in an accelerated, safe way. EMDR therapy helps to process painful experiences, support healing, increase access to moments of calm, and begin to take steps forward in life with clarity and intention.

With love and solidarity,


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