Offering help to grieving families over the holidays

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(Host) For many families, this holiday season will be especially difficult because of the loss of a loved one.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, there are things people can do to help those who are grieving make it through the holidays.

(Keck) It’s never easy to know what to say to someone who’s grief-stricken. So, people often remain silent. But Pat Noll, a grief counselor with the Rutland Visiting Nurses Association, says it’s important to acknowledge the person who is gone, to say their name and try to include them in some way.

Mendon resident Ann Clark agrees and says those acknowledgements have been very important to her. Clark’s oldest son John died eight years ago at the age of 34. Four years later, her husband John died.

(Clark) “All my friends too, they say, ‘Oh, John would have loved this,’ or, ‘John would have said this,’ or, ‘John would have done that.'”
(Keck) “And that helps?”
(Clark) “Oh yeah.”

(Keck) Things that don’t help, say grief counselors, are platitudes. Don’t tell someone who’s grieving that you know just how they feel. Saying, ‘call me if there’s anything I can do’ is also not that helpful.

Instead, grief counselors say offer specific help. Let someone know if you’re going to the store and offer to pick up any items they need. Offer to shovel their driveway, mow their lawn or take them dinner.

Ann Clark says her friends were especially good about inviting her along on outings.

(Clark) “They’d call and include me in everything and they understood if I didn’t want to go. If they were going to go to the movies or out to dinner they would always call and invite me. It was wonderful.”

(Keck) It’s been almost five years since her husband John died and while she says it’s still hard coming home to an empty house, especially during the holidays, she says she’s gotten used to it and with the help of her friends, family and time, it’s okay.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

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