The holiday season often brings increased stress for many parents. In our 24/7 connected world, what once was a fun-filled Thanksgiving holiday has become a hectic journey leading up to Christmas. For grieving parents, this acceleration is incredibly frustrating, as constant reminders of the "Season of Joy" only emphasize the absence of their cherished child.
The widespread belief that this is "the most wonderful time of the year" deepens the conflict in their broken hearts. Material gifts lose their significance when the deepest desire —the presence of their child—cannot be fulfilled. While families gather, the empty chair serves as a poignant reminder, making it difficult to find joy amid the festivities.
Navigating the holiday cheer can feel like hiking through mud when all one desires is to escape to dreamland until the holidays are over.
1. Honor Coping Mechanisms: Recognize and support any coping strategies grieving parents take to manage during the season. If they express needs, accept their suggestions gracefully, love them, and do your best to accommodate them.
2. Initiate a Compassionate Conversation: If the grieving parent doesn't broach the subject, approach them thoughtfully about making the holidays more manageable. Understand that there are no guidelines for managing this pain, and a clear plan may not exist
3. Gifts Are Not the Solution: Don't be surprised if grieving parents don't want to exchange gifts, as material items cannot restore the family circle to wholeness. Respect their wishes and consider alternative ways to show care and support.
4. Food Responsibilities: Don't assume the bereaved parent should be exempt from all holiday meal responsibilities. For some, routine tasks like cooking can be healing. In contrast, others may have limited energy and cannot complete daily tasks. Ask if they would like to contribute and respect their response
5. Thoughtful Inquiries: Avoid pressuring surviving children for updates on their parent's emotional state. This puts them in a difficult position and diminishes their own grief. If you would like more information, ask the parent directly.
6. Support for Young Children: If young children are in the family, offer to take them to events and activities their grieving parents may not attend. However, respect their decision if they decline, recognizing that separation might be too traumatic.
I recognize that life continues to move forward, the calendar days keep changing, and time cannot be paused. Nevertheless, I will face each day with as much faith and courage as possible. This time of the year demands extra resilience, and I humbly recognize that I could use help in overcoming these challenges.