How to support someone who is grieving during the holidays
While the holiday season can be a festive and joyous time for some, it can be a dark time for anyone who has lost a loved one. Psychiatrist Casey Berson, MD, offered tips on how to help someone who is grieving during the holidays and when it might be time to reach out for help.
Reassure them that they’re allowed to be sad
“If you’ve lost someone close to you recently, the holidays can bring up a lot of emotions that are difficult to deal with,” Dr. Berson said. “We also tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves this time of year during a colder season with less sun. It’s not always the most wonderful time of year for everybody, and that’s okay.”
To take the pressure off, allow someone who’s grieving to simply feel the way they feel. As the day progresses, they might be able to find ways to celebrate and enjoy the present, but never invalidate how a person is feeling or ask them to feel differently because it’s a holiday.
What are some warning signs that indicate a person might really be struggling?
Sometimes grief can turn into depression. Dr. Berson said some warning signs are a decline in functioning, such as eating and sleeping less than they normally do or withdrawing from people they would normally want to be around.
For children specifically, look for an increase in irritability or anger, in addition to isolation and changes in appetite and sleep.
“Children are still learning to deal with their emotions,” Dr. Berson said. “They can have big emotions and it’s sometimes easier to be mad than sad.”
To help, she said it’s important to listen to kids and give them the space to tell you how they’re feeling.
“That is often easier said than done, and it’s something we all struggle with as parents or even as adults,” she said.
One tip is to take advantage of the drive to and from school to let your child tell you how they’re feeling.
When should you reach out for help?
Dr. Berson said it’s always okay to reach out and ask for help.
“Asking for help is not a character flaw. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be hospitalized or that you’re going to be put on medication. It just means that maybe you need somebody to listen to you and help you to think about things differently.”
Help can come in a lot of different ways, such as having coffee with a friend, talking to your spouse, going for a run, reading a book or just letting yourself have a good cry in your room.
“If it’s beyond that and you’re having thoughts that you don’t want to be alive anymore, you’re lost in despair and you’re unable to care for yourself, or you notice those changes in a child, you should reach out for help,” Dr. Berson said.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of these resources:
- National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – dial 988
- CRISIS Text Line – 741741
- Community Crisis Response and Intervention – 833-364-2274
- Mental Health America Crisis Line (864-271-8888) and Text Line (839863)
- Prisma Health Connect Center – 864-455-8988
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