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Mourning During the Holidays

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: I recently lost my son, and Thanksgiving without him was very painful. I am writing to offer suggestions for how people might act, or what they should say, when interacting with one who is grieving the loss of a loved one.

Ordinarily, I would have texted "Sam" in advance to tell him where we would be celebrating Thanksgiving, and I would have said to put on clean clothes, shower and not be late. I couldn't help but feel a profound, overwhelming sadness and an unbearable pain as I prepared to have my first Thanksgiving without my son.

Chances are, if you are reading this column, you probably know someone who is struggling with the loss of a child or grandchild, and it is very painful trying to get through the holiday season.

Although it's only been a mere seven months since I buried my son, I have learned that the art of using the right words helps to soothe the pain.

So, what do you say to someone who is mourning during the holidays? If your friends' loss is recent, wishing them "happy holidays" -- or happy anything from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day -- might come across as if you don't realize (or care about) the permanence of their grief. On the other hand, saying nothing at all speaks a louder message of indifference than shouted words.

Like the scent of candles, grief remains in the air of the holidays even amid the beauty and joy of the season. Saying something is better than saying nothing. Here are ways to tell your friends you're thinking of them and are aware of their grief during the holidays:

 

-- "I'm thinking of you. I know this is your first Thanksgiving without Sam."

-- "I'm keeping you and your family in my thoughts this first Hanukkah after Sam's death. I realize you're still adjusting to Sam's absence."

-- "Will you join us for Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's, etc.? We realize you might not want to sit alone."

-- "I know the holidays will be hard on you and your family without Sam here with you."

...continued

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