Holidays are hard for families who are grieving. Initially, Christmas, anniversaries, and birthdays come to mind as tough days for those in the wake of a loss, but it’s those days that you don’t expect that seem to hit you out of nowhere. Those are the days that friends typically do not think about as being difficult. As a result, families are left to struggle through those moments alone.
The Fourth of July can potentially be one of those times. It’s a day full of cookouts and family gatherings, children swimming and fireworks shows. In all, it’s a day of memories. These memories can cause families to abandon traditions because it’s just too difficult to celebrate the same way as though everything is normal. While the rest of the world expects everyone to to want picnics and fireworks, it can be the last thing grieving families want or need. So how can we help those we love through these difficult holidays?
1) Invite them to attend an event.
Whether it’s a cookout at your home or a public fireworks display, let them know they are wanted. They may turn you down, and that’s okay. They really may need some alone time. The important thing is they know you reached out.
2) Do not be afraid to mention their loved one.
You will not remind them of their loss. They already think about it every moment of every day. You will honor them by also remembering.
3) Do not feel the need to walk on eggshells around them. It is okay to greet them with “Happy Fourth of July”. If it stings for them, you will see it in their response and can navigate conversations with that in mind.
4) Ask about traditions with their loved one. Those who are grieving share the common fear that their loved one will be forgotten. Typically, it helps them to talk about them. Encourage the conversation and feel free to ask questions.
5) Let them come and go on their own schedule and show appreciation that they came at all. And if they don’t, be ready to invite them to something else soon. The day may just be too tough for them. Help them move beyond the day by focusing on another gathering without bringing up their absence at the initial event.
Grief can look different from family to family. However, friends and extended family are a vital part of helping them see the beauty of life again. And who knows? Your understanding and patience may help them to see the beautiful glow of fireworks this year with a whole new perspective.