After losing a loved one, there is the overwhelming and uncharted year of ‘firsts.’ The first birthday they are not there to celebrate, the first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, the first week, month and year anniversary of their death, and, of course, the first holiday season they are not there. All of these moments are ones that bring up tender feelings for the grieving families. How then, do you respect their process and not add to their sadness? Below are some tips that may help you feel more inclined to reach out to these families during this holiday season.
Nikki Winn, the Arkansas State Coordinator of Survivor Outreach Services, cautioned against offering cliché statements. She said, “When my brother died, there were some people in my family that didn’t even call. I was hurt for a long time, until I realized, they just didn’t know what to say.”
Nikki continued, “Although good intentioned, these common phrases cause more harm than solace. Don’t tell someone that is grieving that it will get easier with time or that they need to get back to normal. We (as survivors) are living and adjusting to a new normal. A world without our loved one. It will never be like it was before.” She also warned against saying, ‘things will get easier with time,’ or ‘he/she is in a better place.’ “People will tell you to stay busy, but no one wants hear what you think they need to do to cope.”
Nikki ended by saying, “The most helpful thing anyone can say is ‘I’m here for you when you need me.’ As you navigate your new normal, you don’t know what you are going to need and when. It is comforting to know someone will be there for you, even if it is just to listen.”
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