The holidays can be a triggering time for many people.
Many of those in our networks are coping with the pain of enduring the holiday season without their loved ones around.
In addition to going through the grieving process, many people are also contending with forced isolation due to COVID-19. And although the pandemic and its restrictions are slowly tapering off, the prospect of facing the holiday season alone, or returning to socializing with others can be daunting.
These situations can be equal-parts scary and anguishing, which makes empathy around the holidays more important than ever.
It’s nearly impossible to miss the holiday cheer onslaught via social media, television advertisements, and storefront displays, which start earlier and earlier each year. So, it’s important to remember small things such as a holiday ornament, a menorah, a Christmas song, or a casual holiday greeting can bring about some painful memories for those who are grieving.
As practitioners helping clients sort through the complications of a loved one’s death, it’s always important to be mindful and patient with those experiencing difficult emotions and memories, especially during the festive season.
Here are some simple ways you can support a client who may be struggling with grief this holiday season:
Lead With Compassion
Compassion is the ability to sympathize with someone else’s pain while considering things from their perspective. Your clients or the family members of a deceased client have turned to you during this difficult time, and while you may be filled with joy around the holiday season they may not. Keep their perspective and mind, and add an extra dose of kindness in each interaction with your clients.
Be Self-Aware During Meetings
Don’t forget that in addition to being a client, you are talking to a human being who has experienced a personal loss and is likely experiencing some difficult emotions. This simply means that when speaking of a loved one who has passed, be mindful, be kind, and be self-aware about how you are speaking to them and sensitive when approaching topics that your client could perceive to be painful.
Be Curious and Listen
Oftentimes, when processing the loss of a loved one, it helps to talk about the person you’re missing without offering unsolicited advice or commentary. Clients may want to share a favorite story from past holiday seasons, and simply want someone to ask them questions and then listen. This means they’re not necessarily looking for advice or solutions, they just want someone to hear their story.
Be Cognizant of the Stages of Grief
Grief can manifest itself in a number of ways, from anger to depression. If your once pleasant client suddenly becomes combative, distant, or difficult to work with, don’t take it personally. Continue to lead with compassion, and keep in mind, everyone processes trauma differently. And everyone processes grief and the loss of a loved one in their own way.
Avoid Comparing Their Greif to Someone Else's Grief
As humans, we want to relate to others, find a connection, or feel like we’re being helpful. But, among the things to avoid when working with a grieving client is to compare their grief with something you’ve experienced or another client’s experience. Every single person’s experience with grief is unique and by comparing their grief with someone else’s they may feel diminished or robbed of their dignity.
Create A Helpful List of Resources
Depending on how long you’ve worked with the client, it may be helpful to provide them with resources for support, especially during the holiday season. This could mean having a list of local or online support groups you could share with them, if asked, or if it feels appropriate. Don’t be hurt if your client rejects the offer, and isn’t ready for a support group. Just remember; everyone processes grief in their own way.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Working with clients who are experiencing loss and are in the throes of grief can lead to vicarious trauma. It’s important to remember that listening to clients talk about their grief and loss can also affect you. You are human too and need to find ways to take care of yourself, especially during the holidays. You may be resilient, but you also have a finite amount of emotional energy. Remember to do things to help replenish that store, like practicing self-care and taking time to process and breathe.
Working with clients, even those you have a longstanding relationship with takes an extra layer of care because of the difficult emotions surrounding grief. By remembering to be mindful, kind, and lead with compassion, you can help ease clients through this challenging time.
At Trustate, we want you to know we’re here for you as allies and as partners to recognize and identify the struggles both you and your clients may be facing at this time of year.