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When Your Friend is Grieving During the Holiday Season

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When we think about upcoming holidays, dazzling lights, music, and festivity come to mind. Unfortunately for some, holidays are associated with grief. Grief doesn’t take a sabbatical during the holidays. Grief and loss know no calendar. While most are decorating and partying, some are sad and shedding tears. People are busy planning and anticipating, but some are lonely and numb. A widow painfully signs cards with only one name and has one less person on her shopping list. Festive is not part of her vocabulary.

Holiday grief is an oxymoron. It is difficult. 

Christians grieve, but not as those who have no hope. ( ) Not everyone grieves the same way because they do not have the same loss or circumstances. If your friend is grieving, read through these ideas and see if any apply.

  • Acknowledge their loss and how remarkably different the holiday is for them. “I’m sure this is a hard season for you.” Don’t tell them you understand. You don’t, but you can listen.
  • Call with specifics in mind:
  • Can we go to lunch Tuesday? 
  • I’m heading to the mall Thursday. Would you like to go with me?
  • I just took my decorations down from the attic. Is there a day I can come over to help you?
  • Would you like to ride with us to the church for the special Christmas program, or see Christmas lights, or______?
  • Can you come for dinner next Friday?
  • Speak the deceased’s name or relay a memory of him. A griever is surely thinking about him.
  • Ask, “How are you doing today?” Every day is different.
  • If it has been a year or more, an empty spot is still felt and seen. A new year may offer new triggers. Emotions ambush at any time. Be patient and kind. They are not stuck in grief but remembering their spouse and past holidays. Holidays will not become “normal”, only evolve to be different. With each major holiday and life event, the absence of our loved one is profoundly present.
  • Respect their boundaries. Ask. Their love language may not be yours. They know their emotional and financial limits and interests during this season. If they decline, don’t insist.

Poinsettias are lovely gifts, but a live voice and company/your time are presents too. Can you be that presence for a griever this season?

Copyright © 2019 Marilyn Nutter, used with permission.

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About The Author


Bio Marilyn Nutter is a contributor to compilations, online sites, and print publications. Her book Destination Hope: A Travel Companion When Life Falls Apart, written with April White, was released on September 28, 2021. She is a facilitator for grief groups, a speaker, and Bible study leader. In her life’s seasons, she clings to . For hopeful living in ordinary and challenging days, visit her site and blog at