The Gift of Love: How to Help


How to Help Grievers During the Holiday Season

Where there is great love there are always miracles.
Willa Cather

Being supportive of a bereaved friend is a worthy endeavor that may drain you of energy, especially during the busy holiday season. It is important to attend to your own feelings and fatigue. When you take care of yourself you are better able to help others. 

Please visit December's Child for thoughts on how to support grieving children, or refer to How Children Grieve from ChildGrief.org.

If you want to write a note of sympathy for your grieving friend, but need a little boost to get started, click
Writing Letters of Condolence.

You can plan in advance for ways to reach out to your grieving friend during the holiday season. Here are a few suggestions to get your own ideas flowing, but I believe that if you listen to your heart, you will always know how to best help your friend. Trust the message.

Invite your friend to share the holiday at your house.

Take your friend out for a special Christmas lunch.

Better yet, invite your friend over to your place for a holiday meal.

Please don’t avoid the loss. Your friend may need to cry and reminisce about happier times, or may need a break from the sadness that your invitation provides. Grief is personal. Allow the conversation to go where it needs to go.

Write a note, send a card, deliver flowers, or give a thoughtful gift.

Make a donation to a holiday charity in memory of the one who has died and have the announcement sent to your friend.
Take a drive to look at Christmas lights. Stop for dinner.

Grief drains people of energy making activities of daily living very difficult and holiday preparations overwhelming. Call your grieving friend and ask what you can pick up for them at the store today.

Simplify your friend's life. What tasks are overwhelming to your friend right now? Cook a few meals for the freezer, offer to help write thank you notes for the gifts of food and flowers at the time of the death, pick up the kids from school, stop by the dry cleaners, or shop for groceries. In short, run errands because your friend doesn't have the concentration or energy to do so.

Offer to take the dog for a walk, replace the kitty litter, clean the house, change the bed linens, run the dishwasher, take out the trash, or do the laundry.

NOTE: Do only the basics. Cleaning out the closets, rearranging the furniture, decorating, handling cherished Christmas treasures, or moving items that belonged to the deceased loved one are intrusive and will likely be resented.

Be a handy person, or one of Santa's helpers, if this feels appropriate. Consider the seasons and your geography as you offer simple services: wash windows, mow the lawn, rake leaves, shovel snow, or change the furnace filter.

Grief needs to be expressed outwardly for healing to occur. If your friend likes to write, buy a beautiful blank journal, gift wrap it and drop it off, or mail it. Begin the journal by writing a supportive note on the first page.

Above all, please don’t forget your grieving friend during the holiday season and don’t give up. Your friend may be hurting too much to respond. Try again later. It really is the effort that counts and the time you took to show that you care.

Not many people want, or are able, to enter into another person's pain and suffering. Compassion for our fellow travelers is in short supply and you are offering the gift of love. Congratulate yourself for expressing the deeper meaning of the season by accompanying someone dear on one of life's most difficult journeys.

For more ideas on how to help a grieving friend, please refer to Love in Action.

Go to next page: Gift Ideas from the Heart

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How complicated and individual mending is,
the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar
Mary Jane Moffat
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