Check the holiday card aisle in your favorite store or catalog as you ship for cards to send to your clients. You’ll see “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah” and “Merry Christmas.” They are all messages of light and joy. Yet the holidays are not “happy” or “merry” for families who coped with death during the year, or who have been robbed of their usual holiday traditions and gatherings by COVID-19.
In fact, in 2020 all of us are grieving in one or more ways. Some have “primary losses” – a loved one died, a business failed, a wage-earner was furloughed or laid off, a home burned in the wildfires or was flooded in hurricanes, etc. These grieving people require particular sensitivity.
Even those without primary losses, though, are dealing with grief. Here is an incomplete but accurate list of examples:
- The inability to gather with family and friends
- Loss of security and safety
- Changes in role as they learn to work remotely and/or become in-home tutors to kids who are schooling remotely
- Estranged relationships over issues like politics or race
- Shattering of plans and dreams for the spring, summer or fall (including graduations, weddings, vacations and cruises, festivals, and now having to let go of many long-standing holiday traditions that can’t happen this year)
As I’m sure you can imagine, this list could go on for pages.
In other words, this holiday season is a time fraught with emotion, grief and loss. When you send an upbeat “happy” card, the recipients know you don’t understand at all. They do not feel supported, understood, or cared for. They may feel hurt and even more alone. Instead, recognize both sides of the equation: Happy and sad, joys and losses, smiles and tears.
Do so by first choosing a holiday card that wishes peace or comfort, or that has a wordless lovely scene on the front. Ensure that any pre-written text is equally sensitive to the situation. Then make sure you also include hand-written words from you.
These are some suggestions for different circumstances, which you can use, adapt, combine or personalize:
- This holiday season is unlike any other, to cap off a year unlike any other. Throughout this season, and as we move into a new (and hopefully better) year, we wish you moments of peace amid the difficulties, connections with family and friends even if they can’t be in person, the warmth of memories from holidays past, and wonderful glimpses of the joy that still lives under the surface.
- This is sure to be a holiday season of intensely mixed emotions as you miss your dad with tears, remember him with smiles, and mourn that your family can’t all be together. Every emotion is part of grief, especially in times like this, so it’s normal if you sometimes feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and everything in between. We carry you in our hearts throughout this difficult season and continue to be here for you as you move forward. In the midst of it all, we wish you moments of peace, healing and lightheartedness to sustain you.
- The holidays can seem especially draining this year with all that is going on. It is doubly difficult because we all miss our usual means of support, the comfort of gathering with friends and family, and worship services that are part of our traditions. We are here for you through it all. We wish you endurance, strength, health, and as much happiness as these times can allow!
- For you, this season is not all merry and bright as your sister’s life and future hang in the balance. So instead of wishing you happy holidays, I wish you strength to get through this. I wish you restful sleep, at least on occasion. I wish you skilled and communicative doctors and attentive nurses. I wish you wisdom to know what to do. I am right here in your corner, and I will do whatever I can to help.
These are only a few suggestions. You can adapt many more from my book No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients through the Toughest Times of Life or use these as a basis to create your own. Regardless, don’t gloss over the challenges of this holiday season for your clients. Instead, demonstrate that you understand them, support them, and will be there to help see them through.
Amy Florian is the CEO of Corgenius, combining neuroscience and psychology to train financial professionals in how to build strong relationships with clients through all the losses and transitions of life.