It’s Halloween. Costumes are coming out, parties are being planned, and thousands of pounds of candy is flying off the shelves across the nation. But even as people revel in the changing of the seasons and the fun of dressing up, we can’t forget that many of our neighbors, friends, and family members are hurting deeply. Grief is not relegated to certain parts of the year. But how can we be sensitive to the emotional needs of those around us who are hurting during this festive time?
While there’s no need to put your own Halloween plans on hold, let’s discuss 7 tips that will help you be sensitive to and interact with grieving friends and loved ones this Halloween.
1. Recognize and accept that others may be hurting, and they are going to experience grief during the Halloween season.
While you may want your grieving friend or loved one to “enjoy” the season, don’t push too hard. What you consider enjoyment and what your grieving friend considers enjoyment may look completely different right now. They are experiencing a myriad of emotions, and much of the time, they don’t have control over when those emotions show up. Let your friend experience their feelings and concentrate on being a safe person they can talk to.
2. Encourage your grieving loved one to set healthy boundaries and be prepared to support and abide by those boundaries.
The person who is grieving may have limited energy (grief is hard work), so it’s important that they figure out what will work for them this Halloween. If you are close to someone who is grieving, encourage them to set boundaries, and then, be prepared to support those boundaries, abide by them, and if necessary, help your grieving loved one fight for them.
3. Give your grieving loved one plenty of notice about any Halloween events or gatherings.
More often than not, someone who is grieving needs time to work up the energy to go out to an event or gathering. Make sure you give them plenty of notice so they can mentally and emotionally prepare. Also remember! You are encouraging them to put down healthy boundaries. Don’t be offended or hurt if they decide not to come to your party.
4. Be mindful of your Halloween decorations.
By nature, Halloween decorations include skulls, gravestones, blood, depictions of death, and other macabre things. These types of images may act as unpleasant reminders of a recent loss for those who are grieving. While you don’t have to completely re-decorate, consider whether any specific decorations could act as a grief trigger, and if appropriate, remove these items when the grieving person comes over for a visit.
5. Invite your grieving friend to take part in a service project.
When we grieve, we can sometimes become so focused on the strong emotions we are feeling that we forget to come up for air. It’s a good practice to focus on others so that we can let our minds rest from the grief for a while. To make Halloween a more pleasant experience, invite your grieving loved one to give out candy at the community trunk or treat or the church fall festival. Alternatively, you could participate in a Halloween 5K for a cause or in another opportunity available through the church or community.
6. Look for ways to honor the memory of a lost loved one.
There are so many special things you can do to honor a lost loved one at Halloween. Buy or make a special gift. Dress up as a lost loved one’s favorite character. Sit down with your grieving friend and share memories or stories. Join your grieving friend for a special trip to the gravesite. Watch that annual scary movie in honor of the person no longer present. Your friend may be perfectly fine with Halloween. Even if they are, most people appreciate it when efforts are made to honor a lost loved one’s memory.
7. Follow up after Halloween to see how they are doing.
As human beings, we aren’t always the best at following through on things, but in this case, try to put extra effort in. It’s important for a grieving person to know that your love and concern aren’t just temporary. By following up after the holiday (especially if you know it was difficult for them), you cement your sincerity and care.
And of course, make sure to reach out and offer your support all through the year. Grief isn’t a walk in the park; it’s a journey. Your grieving friend or loved one is going to continue to need love and support long after the loss.