How to Accommodate a Grieving Friend During Major Social Events
Social isolation isn't uncommon when grieving, whether it's caused by well-meaning friends who want to give space or it's self-inflicted by the bereaved.
During periods of grief and especially following significant loss of a spouse, some may worry about attending big events or parties.
Will it be too much to bear? Will it be awkward without their long-term party-going partner? Will they feel alone?
If you're hosting an event and one of the invitees is grieving the loss of a partner, there are steps you can take to make the party more welcoming to them.
In this post, we're going to look at how to accommodate a grieving friend during an event, whether it's a small birthday party or a massive milestone like a wedding.
Let Them Off the Hook
First thing is first: Before the event's date even draws close, reach out to the grieving member. Ask how they are, and then bring up the event.
Let them know that you absolutely want them there, but that there is no pressure. If they aren't feeling it on the day of the event, or if they need to leave part-way through, that's okay.
Being overwhelmed by grief isn't the same thing as flaking on an invitation, and mourning people need to be given grace. This can help someone feel more comfortable coming, knowing that there are expectations or strings attached.
Avoid Traditions or Activities That Call Attention to the Loss
Some traditions and activities can excessively draw attention to a loss. If you can consider avoiding these, that can help the grieving party.
At my wedding, for example, I had always loved the idea of having everyone on the dance floor, with the last couple standing being the longest-married couple. Since my mother-in-law misses her late husband dearly, however, that would have been hurtful to her. We crossed that off the itinerary early in planning, because a fun idea is never worth causing someone pain.
Even at parties with game night, avoid having everyone partner up as couples. Divide up the group into teams of two or three and not into couples to avoid singling them out.
Take Care to Introduce & Include Them
When someone is grieving the loss of a partner, they may feel anxiety about going to social events alone for the first time in decades.
Take this into consideration, making sure to introduce them to people they'll get along with and to call them over to join conversations.
If you're planning a big event with seating plans, don't stick them at a single's table. Instead, put them near people who they'll enjoy spending time with and let them know about mutual interests beforehand.
Acknowledge the Loss When Appropriate
You should never bring up the loss in front of everyone to single this person out, but a private comment if and when appropriate that acknowledges their loss can mean a great deal.
Sharing a happy memory of their partner, for example, or a funny story can help them to feel like their spouse isn't forgotten and isn't missed.
This will depend on the individual, however, and how much they're seeming to want to talk about their deceased partner.
Give Them a Plus One
If you're going to be so busy hosting that you won't have time to ensure they feel included, give them a plus one.
This is an excellent call for larger events, as they won't have to be worried about being stuck in a sea of couples. Let them know that they have an extra RSVP and that they're welcome to bring a friend. It will likely be greatly appreciated. Thank Them Sincerely for Coming
Make sure that you let your friend know exactly how much their presence meant to you, and that it was so appreciated. This can make it easier for them to feel comfortable attending more events in the future, especially since some worry that they'll be a burden or unwanted.
While this may happen at the end of the event or even later after it's ended, it reminds them that they're valued and loved. And no one needs that more than someone who is grieving the loss of a life partner.
Losing a spouse or partner is never easy, and facing events alone that you would have without question attended together can be more of a challenge than some may expect, especially at first. Having loving friends and family who understand the challenge and who accommodate a bereaved spouse can mean the world to them.
And even better, it can help them have a heck of a time at your party, even if they have go it alone.