How to recognize loss at New Years Eve party
December 31, 2018 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Our closest friends lost their son to a drug overdose in July. We will be spending New Years Eve with them tonight with a small group of friends/family. How can we recognize this loss tonight in a meaningful way?

Our closest friends' son died in July of an accidental drug overdose. Obviously they are still grieving and these last few weeks have been particularly painful. They are hosting a small party tonight (they are the "party friends" in our group and have always loved entertaining) and we've been doing our usual get togethers since the death and have always talked about their son and toasted in his honor.

Tonight feels different though. It's the ending of the last year that their son was alive and they're starting the first full year without him at midnight. This is going to be extremely difficult for them. My family will be taking flowers to the grave before he go to their house, but I feel like tonight we should all do or say something to recognize that he's not with us this year and that our friends' family has changed forever. I don't mean anything huge or elaborate, but something to recognize that tonight isn't totally "Yay! New Year!". (Our friends will not want the entire night to be about the loss, but I'm sure that they are going to be feeling not as cheerful as the rest of us),

TL;dr friends' son died suddenly this year, how can we recognize him and the family's loss during what will otherwise be a fun party.
posted by hollygoheavy to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer: I tend to have bad intuition about this kind of stuff. But having said that, I would let the parents take the lead here. If they don't bring it up themselves, I wouldn't bring up the subject, either.
posted by alex1965 at 9:14 AM on December 31, 2018 [31 favorites]

Ask them before you go over how you can be most supportive tonight. My brother died from depression a few years ago and even now, if someone had "recognized the loss in a meaningful way" at an event I was hosting I would have to leave the room. But when it was fresh? Noooope. Maybe your friends will feel different. But the only way to know is to ask them.

The thing that really struck me after my brother died was all the different ways we mark the beginnings of years. His first birthday since it happened. First Passover. First Rosh Hashanah. First spring. First Robin. First solstice. It just gutted me every time, and we were estranged, I cannot imagine how it would have been different if he and I had kept in touch.
posted by bilabial at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2018 [29 favorites]

I would probably just straight up ask them. Like "hey Friends, we've been thinking about you and know that this may be a particularly hard time of year in a lot of ways. Is there anything special we can do to help acknowledge Son at our New Year's Eve thing, or would you rather leave that for other times?"
posted by dusty potato at 9:23 AM on December 31, 2018 [39 favorites]

Please leave it up to them. If you feel very strongly about doing something, you can ask gently before the party like dusty potato suggests above. But, please don't take it upon yourself to plan anything. You could end up making things far more painful for your friends.
posted by quince at 9:36 AM on December 31, 2018 [10 favorites]

Consider donating to a cause they appreciate in his name in January 2019 to keep his memory and alive in the new year.
posted by defreckled at 9:53 AM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

It is lovely of you to think of this but please let them take the lead. My mother passed away only a few months ago & I can't think of anything I'd be less equipped to deal with this NYE than someone trying to do something to remember her. I know you are doing this from a place of love, but love them enough to trust them to do what they need to heal during the event & support whatever decision they make. They might want to escape to a place of happiness with friends for a little while, they may want to remember their son, please let it be their choice.
posted by wwax at 9:54 AM on December 31, 2018 [16 favorites]

We lost our son and I would find it unpleasant if visitors behaved as you're suggesting. Grief isn't something to share that way. Let your hosts bring it up if they wish, otherwise please just celebrate the New Year.
posted by anadem at 10:15 AM on December 31, 2018 [7 favorites]

Can you get them a nice card and pull them aside at the beginning and say you got this because you know the last few weeks have been especially hard etc? Then give them a nice hug and go try to enjoy the night. I wouldn't do anything publicly.
posted by Amy93 at 10:16 AM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I know it is coming from love but you are claiming knowledge of what the family wants in its deepest heart of hearts.
Just be there and go with the flow, show love, and enjoy the friendship of those gathered...
that is the gift that they are requesting of you.
posted by calgirl at 10:19 AM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's never wrong to ask. Do exactly what Dusty Potato suggested and ask then, not us.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:29 AM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

If they’re hosting this event, it sounds like this is how they’ve chosen to mark the occasion. Please don’t ask them to perform grief for you because you think they should do or say something. It’s not like they need reminding because they’ve forgotten. If they want to acknowledge him, as you’ve said before, they can talk or toast in his honour but it should be their choice. If you need to do something, maybe you can do it privately or leave flowers or donate money.
posted by Jubey at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

I lost my daughter a few years ago and if it was my party I would not want to address it. It is very hard to reach out and touch grief that is that recent and expect to have anything left to the evening. I recommend you let them chose how to address it and if you want to, offer hugs and kind words intimately at the end of the night.
posted by InkaLomax at 11:12 AM on December 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

Definitely talk to them about this NOW, before the party. If you’d like to offer suggestions of remembrances when you ask them about their preferences, you could suggest lighting a 24-hour candle before dinner, so that it will be burning as a reminder of him when the clock strikes 12. Alternately, you can suggest bringing some of his favorite foods/drinks for everyone to enjoy in his memory.
posted by samthemander at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2018

I would not wait for them to say something - one of the tough things about grief is the way others often act as if nothing happened. But I would not plan anything either. I would suggest saying something very briefly, then letting them lead the way. You could mention that you took flowers to the grave or, if you’ve been at events with son in the past, say you miss seeing him at their house. Mentioning a kind memory of son would be good too.
posted by FencingGal at 11:39 AM on December 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

Thank you everyone-all of your answers are "best" answers.
posted by hollygoheavy at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

this is relevant to some stuff from the Good Grief thread ...

Specifically, something that came up for me in a recent talk with a friend who's been dealing with first the dying, then the death of his young daughter (from cancer).

The two things he came to hate most were:

a. people asking him how things were going
b. public shows of affection (hugs etc)

The first was problematic because the answer was almost always extremely complicated and alienating (ie: "I don't think you really want me to honestly answer that"). The second was problematic because, whatever may have been going on within, he suddenly had to be that public person who was grieving, had to present as sad or brave or whatever.

What did work for him? People saying stuff like "good to see you" and then allowing him to decide where to go with the conversation. They could talk about the weather ... or if he felt like it, things could get serious. As for acknowledging his grief which is what the hugs etc were really about, a simple "My condolences" generally sufficed. And if he felt like hugging them, then he would ...

posted by philip-random at 2:14 PM on December 31, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think it is nice to know that others share your loss but you want to make it a simple private statement that doesn't require any particular response from them. In your case, a brief mention that you were thinking of him and left flowers at the grave earlier is enough. That gives them the option of a bland response ("thank you" or "that was kind of you") and then a change of subject if they want to they can say more.

Anything more than that would definitely require an advance conversation and runs the risk of being out of synch with where they are and what feels right to them. If you are a close friend, such that it would be normally to be talking to them anyway, you can feel them out to see if they want more, if you want to, but personally I would leave it up to them.
posted by metahawk at 2:19 PM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

“To absent friends”
posted by cricketcello at 3:52 PM on December 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

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