When The Holidays Are Hard For Your Spouse And You Have No Idea What To Do
The holiday season can be very difficult for many people. Some are reminded every year of childhood trauma. Others are reminded of a great loss. Others just feel sad, because their lives have never lived up to magic that Christmas promised.
I don’t need to convince you of the challenges that many face. You are very aware of that. People suffer, and when it is your own spouse, you both suffer. You just want the grieving to end. You want to fix the source of sadness. You just don’t know what to do.
When you feel you can’t do anything to fix the sadness, it can elicit a real feeling of helplessness. When you are helpless you may even try harder to fix it or allow your patience to wear thin. Instead of making it better, you make it worse. I know you mean well and feel for your helplessness.
There is no rule book for grieving so people grieve in different ways for different periods of time. These are waters you need to tread lightly and with love, but the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. Here are 3 tips for what not to do and 3 for what to do.
What not to do:
1. Be absent physically and emotionally.
• Your spouse may be longing for support and comfort.
• Doing nothing can easily be interpreted as you don’t care.
• Your lack of response may be seen as disapproval.
2. Be insensitive.
• “It is the holidays. Just let it go.”
• “Don’t be so dramatic. Others have it worse.”
• “It is the best time of year. Let’s get on the happy train.”
• I am tired of this. Get some meds or something.”
3. Be a fixer.
• Fixing may help you feel better but not your spouse.
• Fixing can marginalize the loss your spouse is feeling.
What to do:
1. Be sensitive.
• Be patient and understanding.
• Do extra to help out around the house and with the kids.
• Don’t fix, but consider what you may enjoy doing together.
2. Invite your spouse to share.
• Ask if your partner wants to talk.
• Gently prod but don’t push.
• Listen without distraction.
• Show understanding.
3. Ask your spouse what you can do to help.
• Be prepared to do, to the best of your ability, what is asked.
• Give extra space if requested.
• It shows you care and helps your spouse feel loved.