Stephanie Evans, a nationally-certified counselor and mental health expert, shared with the Baptist and Reflector some ideas about helping those who are dealing with grief, depression or general sadness during the holidays. Here are what she considers to be three of the most vital ways to help:
Be aware. Your family, friends, and/or coworkers might be experiencing internal struggles due to grieving a significant loss in their lives. Be aware that grief can manifest in many different ways. Grief can impact an individual’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and somatic experiences. Be aware that everyone experiences grief differently. Most are able to grieve while still maintaining day to day functions. However, for some, grief can become debilitating. Be aware of resources that are available in your community should those individuals need additional help during this season.
Be sensitive. I would encourage friends to be sensitive, but don’t avoid. Often people avoid reaching out to grieving individuals or avoid discussing the object of their grief. Whether this avoidance comes from a place of love (ex. trying to respect the individual’s space and give them time to grieve) or a place of fear (ex. our own discomfort with death or the subject matter) the result of avoidance is usually not helpful for those grieving. Unfortunately, avoidance may actually cause the grieving person to feel isolated, alone in their grief, uncared for and could intensify the pain that they are already experiencing. And though I am a child of God and pastor’s wife, I would avoid using clichés such as indicating that the deceased is “in a better place.” For one, not everyone dies having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, not every deceased person is in a better place. Secondly, no matter how devout we are in our Christian walk, we are also human and with humanity comes complex emotions. It is okay to love God but still struggle with difficult emotions (anger, fear, sadness, etc.). Unlike our human emotions, God is constant. God will be there for you during all the ups and downs that you experience throughout your grief journey.
Be present. Truly be present. Often those grieving feel like they are alone in their grief. Sure, loved ones might say “I’m here if you need me” but those words often prove to be empty. In saying, “I’m here if you need me” we are putting the burden of reaching out on the grieving individual. Grieving individuals might have a hard time letting you know when they need you.
Even if the grieving individual needs space to process their grief, it still helps to know that they are not alone. You can provide space and still be present in the grieving individual’s life. For instance, simple check-ins go a long way in helping someone know that they are not alone. Technology and social media platforms make it even easier for us to stay connected. Additional ways to be present might include mailing the individual a card, periodic phone calls to check-in, invite the grieving individual to events and/or gatherings, and for Baptists this may mean cooking them an occasional casserole. If the grieving individual has needs as a result of the loss they experienced, find small ways that you can help mitigate those needs. And remember, that everyone’s grief journey looks different. So be present now, be present six months from now, be present a year from now, and be present years down the road when something triggers that grief to return. By being present you remind them that they are not alone. B&R For more on dealing with grief during the holidays, see related story HERE.