5 Ways to Support the Grieving Elderly During the Holidays

help support older grieving adults at the holidays

When a death of a loved one occurs, grief is natural and necessary. However, for the elderly, the effects are often worse from loss.

Grieving older people are at higher risk for severe health problems and disorientation due to increased stress levels. Loneliness also intensifies because society tends to ignore the effects of multiple losses that the elderly experience.  Additionally, older adults often have other major losses when they experience the loss of a loved one. An older adult who loses a partner may suffer the loss of financial security, their best friend, and social circle.  Moreover, the elderly lose their independence and physical strength during the aging process. Lastly, the loss of a loved one may cause the older adult to bring up memories and feelings from a previous loss, making the loss increasingly difficult. 

The holidays also bring up a lot for the grieving elderly. At a time when people come together, count their blessings, and celebrate, many older adults are reminiscing on the past and trying to manage feelings of sorrow and loss.  Family members may not include their older family in seasonal activities, which creates isolation for older adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), socially isolated older adults are at higher risk for depression. For these reasons, this time of year can actually bring melancholy feelings to the forefront for the elderly population. 


Here are 5 ways you can support the grieving elderly in your family during the holidays:


Spend Time Together 

Make sure that you support your elderly family member and friend by spending time with them.  Whether it's big or small, keeping them company goes a long way.  Ideas include sharing memories, watching their favorite television show with them, or just spending time on the phone.  Additionally, supporting them with their daily tasks such as picking up groceries, cooking meals, helping with paperwork, and taking them to doctor’s appointments can feel like valuable quality time. After a loss, people usually provide support for a month or so, but long-term help should be the focus. Months after loss loneliness stays and the holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays become very difficult. 


Talk About The Lost Loved Ones 

Share memories together, offering memories of your own and expressing curiosity about their stories and things they remember about the lost loved one. Active listening is key, even if the discussion is negative. Through being empathic, your elderly loved one may reveal more about their symptoms and help you identify ways to help them lift their spirits. 


Importance of Holiday Cards

For many older adults, holiday cards bring joy during the holiday season. Looking at family pictures and grandchildren who have grown over the year makes them smile.  If possible, reach out to your family members and ask them to send cards and photos so your elderly family member has something to look forward to and make them smile during this time of year. 


Create Rituals In Memory of Your Loved One

Because the holidays can be especially hard for older adults, identifying family rituals to honor the loss can help support the family to acknowledge the loss and celebrate their life. Ideas include lighting candles, writing something special about the loved one to share during family gatherings, donating to charity in honor of the loved one, planting a tree in memory of the deceased, or putting a significant item or picture on the Christmas tree for holiday decorations. 


Share Support Options 

Remind your elderly family member or friend that grief counseling can be extremely helpful.  Helping them find a grief group or individual counseling to heal is a great way to show support. Currently, many support groups offer virtual options so the group experience can be shared in the comfort of their home, making it easier to attend and connect with others.  Additionally, look for social groups in your community for the elderly. Local churches and community centers may host activities such as bingo, reading clubs, and movie nights that your elderly family or friend may be interested in attending.  


If you have questions, need additional support, or want to talk with someone about your situation, please reach out to our caring team anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit www.ewsmithfs.com.



  • https://www.centerforgrieftherapy.com/older-people-grieve-differently/
  • https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/more/aging-well/grief-helping-older-adults-grief
  • https://www.agingcare.com/articles/elderly-loneliness-during-holidays-148441.htm
  • https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/grief-loss-during-holidays.html

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