6 Meaningful Ways to Be There for Loved Ones During the Holidays

While the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year for many of us, this season can be particularly difficult for those who are separated from family, coping with loss, dealing with financial hardship or going through other challenges.

This past September, OptionB.Org and SurveyMonkey set out to learn more about how the holidays feel for people who have been through hardship…and how we can all be there to support our loved ones during these times.

Key Findings from the #OptionBThere Survey Conducted by OptionB.org and SurveyMonkey:

The holidays are not always happy for everyone. The holiday season can be particularly difficult for people who are facing adversity such as losing a loved one, coping with illness, or struggling financially. Sixty-one percent say the season is more emotionally challenging than other times of the year, and while they still feel excitement and joy, they’re more likely than others to feel lonely, sad or worried.

Many people are not getting enough support during the holiday season. Forty-three percent of people who’ve experienced some type of adversity say they don’t feel very supported by the people closest to them during the holidays.

Friends and family know they’re falling short. Eighty-four percent of people know someone who has dealt with hardship — but only 35 percent are more likely to reach out to support a loved one during the holiday season. The top two reasons people don’t reach out are because they worry about what to say or don’t think loved ones want to be reminded of their struggle.

It is not that hard to get this right. Fifty-five percent of people who are struggling say it would be helpful if friends and loved ones spent time with them. Almost 40 percent feel the same way about receiving a text message or card or being able to talk about what they’re feeling.

What can you do?

As the survey findings suggest, small gestures can make a big difference. Here are more ideas to help make the holidays a little better for those you love most and others in your community:

Be thoughtful about holiday greetings. When someone you care about is going through a tough time, cheery holiday sentiments, like “Happy Holidays!”, can fall short. Instead, consider alternative greetings, such as “I’m thinking about you, especially during the holidays.” Or share an #OptionBThere card, developed in partnership with PAPYRUS to show you’re there for them — even if the holidays aren’t totally happy.

Start a conversation. One of the best ways you can help your loved ones going through a tough time is by listening to them or asking about their feelings. If they’re not open to talking at the moment, let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready. Saying something (even if it feels awkward) tells them that you’re thinking of them and that you care.

Give meaningful gifts. When it comes to gifts, it’s not about how much money you spend or finding the “perfect” present. Instead, try gifting items or experiences that help your loved ones meet their needs — encourage relaxation, initiate a favorite activity or offer comfort.

Honor lost loved ones. For those grieving, the holidays can be a painful reminder of their loss. If it’s not too painful, however, the holidays offer many meaningful opportunities to pay tribute to lost loved ones. Ideas include preparing and enjoying their favorite meal, writing them letters of gratitude or organizing a fundraiser for their favorite charity.

Volunteer for a good cause. Research shows volunteering benefits both the doer and the receiver. In fact, those who volunteer report feeling happier and physically healthier, and experience lower levels of stress. If you know someone going through a tough time this holiday season, consider finding a volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch.org and inviting them to join you.

Be there beyond the holidays. When people are struggling with grief or other adversity, there’s often an initial outpouring of love and support which gradually fades away. Avoid falling into that trap by continuing to reach out, including them in events and being there on the hard days.

For more ways to offer extra support to those who need it most this holiday season, visit optionb.org/holidays.