Helping Loved Ones Through Difficult Times: Hospice Holiday Grief

Here at HEALTHCAREfirst we understand the joy and sadness the holidays can bring to the Hospice community. As the holidays approach we all get swept into the hustle and bustle of things we need to get done, food we need to buy and prep along with a host of other tasks that come with the Christmas and Holiday Season. Hospice holiday grief is often far from our minds during this busy time. For most of us it’s a joyous period, and one that we look forward to. It’s an opportunity to get together with family & friends and recall memories past, create new memories and bask in traditions.

For hundreds of thousands of others, it’s the first holiday without a special loved one. Perhaps one that passed only just recently.  For others perhaps, it’s a loved one that passed shortly after the holidays last year – the same loved one who was ill all through his or her final holidays. All of these things can lead to hospice holiday grief, and it is important to know how to help our loved ones cope.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and National Hospice Foundation have some suggestions for how to help loved ones through what may be a difficult time.  Below is a list of suggestions obtained from their website:

  1. Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals. Remember, there is no right way or wrong way to handle the holidays.
  2. Offer to help the person with baking and/or cleaning. Both tasks can be overwhelming for one trying to deal with raw emotions.
  3. Offer to help him or her decorate for the holidays.
  4. Offer to help with holiday shopping or give your loved one catalogs or on-line shopping sites that may be helpful.
  5. Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and your family.
  6. Invite your loved one to your home for the holidays.
  7. Help your loved one prepare and mail holiday cards.
  8. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the Christmas and Holiday Season. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at soup kitchens or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
  9. Donate a gift or money in memory of the person’s loved one. Remind the person that his or her special person is not forgotten.
  10. Never tell someone that he or she should be “over it.” Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
  11. If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping him or her heal. Don’t worry about being conversational…. just listen.
  12. Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.

The best way to help someone through a difficult time, holidays or not, is to let them know you care. What that means will be different for each person and relationship. A hug, a card or a phone call can be wonderful support for a person going through a difficult time.

May you and your families have a Christmas and Holiday Season filled with special moments!