Originally published December 13, 2012 at 11 a.m., updated December 13, 2012 at 3:16 p.m.
Lori Montross, PhD., Director, Center for Grief Care & Education, San Diego Hospice
This time of year can be overwhelming for someone who has recently lost a loved one. Sometimes coping adequately is a matter of being able to say something to somebody when you need to and want to.
If you've recently experienced the death of someone close, the last thing you may want to do is attend the annual neighborhood eggnog fest. But it can be hard to find the words -- and the energy -- to say no.
You may feel the grief of loss building up inside you, but have no one to listen or care.
Or you may have a friend who is obviously grieving, but you have no idea how to help.
San Diego Hospice is among the local organizations that offer strategies for coping with grief during the holidays -- and year-round. Their grief services are available to the greater San Diego community through their Living With Loss support groups. Some groups are free, and some are offered on a sliding scale.
The holidays are often about family traditions, and one way of coping is to start new traditions and create new memories honoring your loved one: lighting a candle in their honor, or visiting a place they loved, for example.
Lori Montross, the director of the Center for Grief Care & Education at San Diego Hospice, told KPBS she worked with a woman whose husband had passed away. He was an avid surfer, and he liked a particular portion of a beach.
"And so she donated a park bench on that beach," Montross said. "Now her new tradition is on Christmas morning, she goes to the park bench, and she sits and she thinks of him, and maybe even has that conversation with him, if you will, as she looks out into the ocean and so for her, that's a tradition that makes a great deal of sense, it's individualized, it comforts, it reminds her of him. And additionally, it's even benefited the community."
When reaching out to someone grieving, a simple, direct approach may work best. Acknowledge that this is a difficult time, but you are checking in to see how they are and if they want to talk. They may not need anything at that moment, but they know you are there when they're ready.
Montross said she advocates asking questions "in a way that doesn't assume either a tremendous amount of grief or not."
"So, for instance, my suggestion might be to approach, let's say, your friend Linda and say, 'Linda, I'm thinking of you, I'm wondering how you're doing during this holiday, especially since it is the first time without -- Bill. I'm wondering if I could help.' And even offering some specific help to that friend or loved one and say, 'you know I'm particularly good at gift shopping. Can I run to the Fashion Valley mall for you, and I know just what to pick out,' and offering tangible ways that you might be able to help, and opening that dialogue for them so they can tell you either yes, this is tremendously impacting me, or maybe share with you how they're managing this process right now."
For a complete list of San Diego Hospice workshops, click here.