For most people, this time of year is filled with excitement, fun, family, food and drink,
celebration, and joy.  

However, for some, this time of year brings its own unique challenges – depression, financial struggles, grief, substance or food addiction, abuse, difficult family
situations – the list goes on and on.

Here are some tips for supporting those around us who may be hurting this holiday season:

  1. Allow others their feelings

Feelings are not good or bad – they just are.  Telling someone to turn them off communicates that their feelings are wrong.  Instead of statements that start with “Don’t feel …” or “Well at least…”, try some of these instead:
“I really miss mom, too.”
“It must be hard to go through the holidays sober.”
“I can tell you are feeling really down today.”

2.  Empathize

Empathy is imagining what it must be like to be in another person’s situation –. Imagine how it would feel if you had to deal with the grief, family issues, or anxiety experienced by the other person.

3. Be an advocate

supporting hurting
Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Being an advocate means doing what you can to make the entire environment as emotionally safe as possible.  Once you imagine what it might be like to face your first holiday sober, might choose to skip the eggnog this year.  If you truly understand the grief your loved one is feeling, you will be more sensitive to the way you reference the person they are grieving, and more accepting when grief feelings do arise.  

These steps are not simple; they can be really hard. Mental health challenges are real, and not everyone can relate. But you can be the one supporting someone who is hurting this holiday season.

I wish you hope and healing this holiday.

April Miller, Ed.S., is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, National Certified Counselor, and Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor. She owns Brave Tomorrow...