How to Be a Friend During the Holidays to People Who Have Had a Bad Year


BuzzFeed | Press Contribution, 2018 

What are 1-3 examples of struggles that pop up for people during the holidays, in terms of mental health?

Around the holidays, a lot of people struggle with feelings of loneliness. During this time of year, family bonds are highlighted and romanticized in commercials, ads, movies, TV shows, etc. In reality, many people have difficulties with their family relationships; past hurts that were never processed emerge as families gather and a lot of people end up reliving the sense of disappointment and distance year to year. The loneliness accompanies peoples’ unmet wish that this year will be different, and when it inevitably feels the same, they get sad, anxious, angry and ultimately feel more alone. 

What are 1-3 ways to support a friend during the holidays, when you know that person has had a challenging year?

I think the best way to support a friend is to be there, both physically and mentally. Try to be with your friends for family gatherings, holiday parties, or any other occasion you know will feel tough for them. Further, try to help them avoid overindulging in alcohol, it tends to bring out the most negative thoughts and feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends tough questions! Ask them if they are sad, if they lonely, if they are angry, and even if they are considering suicide. Asking the tough questions only reduces shame and makes space for open dialogue-it does NOT introduce new ideas.

What are some example(s) of mistake(s) people make when comforting friends who are grieving or having a hard time during the holidays? What should you do instead?

Going off my previous answers, one of the biggest mistakes one can make is to try to “fix” your friend’s problems with unsolicited advice. Another frequent mistake is to join them in avoiding their pain through excessive partying or other escape tactics. If friends are grieving, the best thing you can do for them is to listen. Just listen without judgment, without offering solutions or anecdotes or an escape plan. Give them your time and your ear and take their lead.