By Abigail Loop
The loss of a loved one can change many things about a person’s life, including the way a holiday is celebrated.
Dr. Helen Harris, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work who previously worked as a social worker for hospice, foster care and adoptions, Harris said the best way to help people who are in pain is to not ignore them.
“Giving support to others who are grieving is like putting stitches on a wound,” Harris said. “Holidays have memories attached to them. It’s important to talk about how you’re going to handle things now that a certain person is gone.”
Harris said the hardest part of dealing with the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one is accepting the change. The holidays, which are filled with sentimental value, can be harder to deal with.
“How much a person has to adapt can be the most challenging,” Harris said. “I encourage a ritual to not avoid it. I light a candle every Christmas for my parents and grandparents.”
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the bereaved should get a healthy amount of sleep, eat plenty and take time for themselves to stay physically and mentally healthy while grieving. Sharing memories with others can also help alleviate some of the pain, the association’s website also stated.
Dr. Bill Hoy, a lecturer in the Medical Humanities Program, is involved in the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Hoy said showing support as a caring and willing person to those who are grieving this upcoming holiday, whether Baylor students or personal loved ones, is the most important aspect in helping others to cope with grief.
“Never think it’s best to say nothing, or bring up the fact that their lives will be different,” Hoy said. “Offer practical help. People need caring friends who will listen.”
Harris agreed with Hoy and said people who know anyone going through a loss this holiday season should provide awareness to their hardship and offer acknowledgment of their pain. With the recent deaths of Baylor’s own students, recognizing the students’ families and offering condolences is something that can be done to aid their grief.
“It’s nice to let them know that you’re thinking of them,” she said. “With the student deaths on campus, memorializing them and sending cards to their families is something that can be done. Honor the memory of those who are gone.”