Helping a Grieving Friend Through Christmas

‘Tis the season for eggnog and grief. Christmastime is here and it can be a grueling and gut-wrenching reminder of the relationship that has ended for someone who has lost a loved one through death or divorce or discord.

empty leather chair, red plaid blanket, next to Christmas tree

Christmas can be especially difficult when someone is missing. Brad W. Smith, photographer

We can’t bring back the dead, restore a marriage or repair a relationship, but we can be a good friend to a friend who is struggling in this joyous holiday.

As a friend, it helps to first of all remember there is no time limit on mourning.

As a friend, you want to be there for them with open ears and a kind heart, just as you were when the relationship ended. Their grief may be older, their perspective may be wiser, but their needs are much the same as when their loved one left.  You can be that loving friend again as part of the commitment you have made to do your best to be supportive in the tough times.

Here are a few things to remember to make it easier to be the friend your friend needs:

Acknowledge the Loss 

Yes, their child has died. Yes, the marriage is over. Yes, a daughter is estranged. Yes, it is difficult to go through the holiday season. Mentioning it isn’t going to make them think of something they’ve forgotten. They will be grateful that you understand and that you are willing to remember with them.

Be Flexible

Sometimes they feel sad, but they may also experience the joy of the holiday and want to celebrate. Meet them where they are, without judgment about how they should feel or what they should do or refrain from doing.

Communicate How Much You Care

Cards, phone calls, emails and visits are great ways to stay in touch with your friend. If your friend wants to talk about the deceased, or feelings about their loss, don’t worry about being conversational, just listen. If your friend will be alone on Christmas, invite him or her to join your family for the day.

Do Something Nice  

No one can be replaced in our hearts, but we can help our friend make room for others by suggesting they do something nice in the name of the person. For instance, if a grandparent died, organize caroling at a nursing home, hospice or hospital. If a child is estranged, purchase gifts for children in need or for those without family.

Encourage Participation

Caroling, decorating the tree, ice skating and other seasonal rituals that make use of our time and talents can lift the spirits and remind us of our bounties, despite our losses. Encourage your friend to take part, even on a limited basis.

Form New Rituals

Loss is a painful reminder that nothing is forever, while life is for the living. Gently suggest the creation of new holiday rituals, or at least something new for this year, to overcome the absence of the one who always set a bountiful table or passed out the presents.

Life Is Honest, Open and True: Our simple acts of thoughtfulness make a difference to a friend who is suffering during Christmastime and draw us closer together. We can be that person who recognizes grief does not arrive and depart only once, and comes back to visit again and again.

Do you struggle to know how to comfort someone who is grieving? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!

Related Posts: Grief in Loss

The Art of Comforting Someone in Mourning

When Death Calls, What Do You Say?

12 Thoughtless Things People Say When Someone Dies



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