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Supporting Suicide Survivors during the Holidays
For the friends and loved ones of individuals who have died by suicide, the holidays can be a difficult time. Not only is it a time they may feel their loved one’s absence more deeply, but the messages they receive of needing to feel thankful or spread joy may not feel realistic to them. Navigating through the holiday season can be difficult but here are some ideas for you to help a suicide survivor during this time.
- Allow them to talk about their grief. The holiday season is marketed as a time for joy, but that does not stop the grieving. Be open and allow them to talk about their loved one. This will help them feel understood and not quite so isolated.
- Understand that they may need to leave early or cancel an event. Feelings of loss can leave you fatigued and emotional stress is exhausting. During the holidays, when they are reminded of the loved one they lost, allow them to feel okay with leaving the gathering early or not coming at all so they can take care of themselves.
- Don’t try to push something on them to make them feel better. Well-meaning friends and family members all want to help someone who is grieving feel better with what they think will help them, especially during the holidays. Instead, allow them to choose what will help them through the emotional stress. Everyone grieves differently so what works for you may not work for your friend or family member.
- Realize some holiday traditions may look different. Allow your friend or family member to decide which family traditions they still want to participate in and which ones they’d rather not. This will help reduce some of their panic, fear, and anxiety related to holiday stress after the loss of a loved one.
- Support their spiritual beliefs. During the holidays, and with death, some might find a renewed sense of spirituality or faith or discover a new set of beliefs. Be supportive through their journey.
Grief comes as the result of giving and receiving love. You need to grieve the death of a loved one. During this holiday season, be patient with your friend or family member who is grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide and support them through their grief journey.
Adapted from Alan Wolfelt Center for Loss & Life Transition
Kailey Kocourek, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Kailey joined The Kim Foundation in July 2018 as the Project Coordinator. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNO in Public Health and is currently working towards her Master’s in Public Health from UNMC, expecting to graduate in May 2019. She was drawn to the non-profit world because of her passion for helping and educating others. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and spending time with her husband, Ethan, and two children, Kaiden and Emry.