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How to Support a Grieving Friend During the Holidays

By Staff Editor,
Nov 23, 2011

The holiday season is a joyous time of year marked by celebrations with family and friends. However, for those struggling with the death of a loved one, the holidays may create painful reminders that emphasize their sense of loss. Often, friends and family members are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays.

The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center at Hospice of the Western Reserve is a community-based grief support program providing services throughout Northern Ohio. Counselors at the center provided the following advice:

— Do not struggle with finding the “right” words to say. A simple “I’m
sorry” is often enough.
— If you do not know what to do, ask yourself, “What would I like done for
me under these circumstances?” It’s okay to be direct. Ask grieving
friends what they need.
— If you are unable to tolerate extremely painful mourning, help from
afar. Offer to help with chores or running errands. Never tell a
grieving friend not to cry because you are not able to bear it. Weeping
is essential.
— Share your own grieving experiences, but use good judgment. Only share
that which will offer hope and survival.
— Include grieving friends in social invitations, but be sure to allow
them to freely accept or refuse without pressure.
— Use good judgment in how long to visit. Grieving friends will be
grateful you are there, but not comfortable asking you to leave.
— Acknowledge the loss. This can be said simply and directly or send a
note, flowers, or a donations to charities in their name.
— Sharing spiritual beliefs that are uplifting can give great support;
however, do not push your beliefs on your grieving friend. Praying
together can create a sense of unity.
— Do not withdraw support too quickly after the funeral. This could create
another sense of loss.

About Us

Hospice of the Western Reserve is a community-based, non-profit agency providing comfort and emotional support to patients and their families. The agency cares for people in a variety of settings including the home, hospital, long-term care facility, at David Simpson Hospice House overlooking Lake Erie or at its inpatient Hospice Care Center in Olmsted Township. Opening soon will be the Ames Family Hospice House in Westlake. For more information, visit or call 800.707.8922.

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