Who do you know who is experiencing a less-than-jolly Christmas this year?
May I encourage you to sit down and prayerfully consider anyone you know who has lost a loved one this year, or is going through a season of change, transition, health crisis or loss. Also, ask God to bring to mind anyone who may be alone over the holiday season.
Here are some ideas of how you might come alongside and help —
When the Holidays are Hard
1. Do Something.
Don’t say, “if you need something, call me” — do something!
When someone is grieving, it’s hard to think of what you need, and even harder to reach out for help.
- Make a meal.
- Send a gift card.
- Shovel their driveway.
- Bring postage stamps.
- Do something!
2. Offer to help decorate for the holidays.
Trust me, when you are grieving, the thought of putting up Christmas decorations can be overwhelming (but if you have kids, you feel like you should). If you know someone struggling this season, offer to come and decorate their house for them.
True story…the first Christmas after David’s death, I couldn’t face putting up holiday decorations.
A friend from church named John couldn’t imagine me and Jake not having a Christmas tree — and took Jake out to cut one (Jake’s first time cutting down a tree below).
Aren’t they cute? 16 years later, John’s still cutting down Christmas trees for me and Jake! 🙂
3. Say Something.
A simple, “I’m sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers” …or “I’m sorry this is a hard season. How are you doing, really?”
Rather than ignoring the pain/loss, say something.
By not saying anything, you are saying something. Let them know they matter to you and their feelings matter too.
If your friend wants to talk about the deceased love one and/or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN.
Active listening from others is an important step to healing. Don’t worry about being conversational or having “the right thing to say”…. just listen.
5. Cry with them.
If tears flow, don’t feel you have to “be the strong one.”
Tears are cleansing and an important part of the healing journey. Just be sure to bring lots of Kleenex!
6. Be Flexible.
Be flexible and supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change things up. There is no right way or wrong way to make it through the holiday season.
When David died just 2 weeks before Christmas, I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Every hour was beyond painful and unbelievably hard to get through. My parents and friends were super supportive, and their flexibility was just what I needed during an extremely difficult time.
7. Be Available.
If you say, “Call me anytime”—mean it. Be there.
One cold winter day I was having a hard time. I called a girlfriend and left a message. When she heard my phone message, she immediately hopped in her car and drove right over. She showed up in less than 10 minutes with a barefoot 2 year old. Talk about a true friend!
Being available makes a huge difference. Grief can come in waves…be available for when the wave hits.
8. Extend Invitations
When you are going through loss, nothing is worse than feeling all alone.
If you know someone grieving, extend an invitation to your holiday gatherings. Leave it open ended (i.e. “We’ll be getting together on Thursday night. If you would like to come, we would love to have you. No need to bring anything, you can just show up anytime between 5 -10. Stay as long as you’d like. If it doesn’t work, it’s ok. Just know we’d love to see you.”)
Sometimes just having different options without the pressure of committing to anything can be very helpful.
9. Offer to Take their Kids.
If you know someone struggling (or a single mom), call and offer to take their kids. Let them get some rest, time to think and/or pray, or just have a break.
You could even say, “Could I come and play with your kids while you stretch out/do some laundry/etc…” Big help—trust me!
Keep your friend in your prayers. Lift them before the Lord, and ask God to reveal Himself to them in very personal, specific ways during their difficult time.
Can I share one more true story?!
Two days after David’s death, I went to Calvary Church (my church at the time).
My pastor asked me to come on stage. Friends layed hands on me, while my pastor, Ed Dobson and others prayed over me and lifted David’s family in prayer.
When I listen to the tape of that church service now, would you know that God answered EVERY SINGLE PRAYER?!
God works through prayer, friends, of this I am sure.
Please know, I’m not a trained professional—just an ordinary girl who has been redeemed, healed, and transformed by an extraordinary God. 🙂
What did I miss? What would you add to the list of how to help others when the holidays are hard. I’d love to hear from you!