Loving Those Who Grieve During the Holidays

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Two years ago this week my mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer. She loved celebrating Christmas with her grandsons. She never really knew our girls. While she and I didn’t always see eye to eye, those things don’t really matter to me anymore. I wish I had learned that sooner.

This post was originally posted on December 23, 2008. May it be an encouragement to those who are struggling this season as well as a motivation to those who can help.

A Different Kind of Christmas

This past week my eyes are opened to the realization that for some people Christmas will not be so merry. For our family, we are grieving the loss of someone we loved very much.

We spent several Christmases with my mother-in-law, and now, everywhere I turn something reminds me of her.

  • A brightly colored sweater that would look great on her.
  • The gingerbread house kits that she always enjoyed getting for the kids.
  • A funny thing that one of the kids says or does that I know she would chuckle at. I can almost hear her laughter.

Christmas is not quite as merry this year.

And all of a sudden, I see that we are not the only ones. There are families, maybe you, maybe your neighbor, who are struggling with job losses, overwhelming debts, illness, separation, imprisonment, or death.

It’s been so easy for me in my little cave to go about my business, to plan all sorts of entertainments for my children, and not to think about what other people are experiencing. And now my eyes are opening a little more.

There are those out there for whom Christmas will not be so merry.

— the family who lost their daughter just days before her fifth birthday.
— the woman whose husband is deployed and living a life of danger so that we may be free.
— the couple pursuing adoption whose birth mother changes her mind after they’ve already welcomed a new son into their home and into their hearts.
— the dad who is struggling to make ends meet yet fears the layoffs.

These are real scenarios. Real people.

And Christmas will be different this year.

I mention this as a gentle reminder for myself and for you to think about what we can do to bring comfort to others who might not be having so merry a Christmas. Consider one of these small acts of kindness to perform this week and then again next month when the excitement has died down but the troubles perhaps have not.

  • Call and talk. Find out how they are doing. Don’t be afraid of their sadness. Walk alongside them.
  • Extend an invitation to dinner. It may feel awkward at first. But be real. Be a friend.
  • Take them a meal so that they can have a night off cooking. Food doesn’t solve life’s problems, but it is a comfort.
  • Offer to watch the kids so the couple can have a date, or so the single parent can have a little down time.

These ideas are just a start.

What else can we do for those who grieve or struggle?

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  1. My condolences on your family’s loss. I loss a sibling in September of last year so I completely “get” what you’re saying. Growing up, my brother and I fought-alot- as siblings often do. However, it is absolutely amazing how much you remember little things when you lose someone. I find myself maudlin when I see my kids playing with Legos or watching them play for “champion of the universe” status on some silly video game, replete with the “you have to give em a rematch” arguments. The holidays lead me to specials we’d view together and laugh at and all the sibling hijinks. It’s good though to share memories because in some small way it keeps them alive for a whole generation who may have never had the good fortune to know all the loving memories firsthand.

  2. What a wonderful and very timely post. I lost my mother unexpectedly last month. While Thanksgiving was hard, Christmas will be harder. My mother loved Christmas and showering my young children with gifts. Thank you for this post and encouragement!

  3. “the couple pursuing adoption whose birth mother changes her mind after they’ve already welcomed a new son into their home and into their hearts.”

    What about the natural mother who did give up her child because someone convinced her that God misplaced a child meant for someone else?

  4. (Standing up & applauding in my heart) You hit the nail on the head.

    Yes, call and talk. Please call and talk, show care to those who are grieving or are ill.

    Great and much needed post! Bravissimo! Let’s be Jesus with skin on to others.

    Bless you-Blesss you!

  5. I lost my only sibling, my baby brother in October to cystic fibrosis. He was 39 and would have turned 40 ON 12-27. It has been very hard so Thank You for reminding us to make sure we offer our support to those who are hurting. We knew he would not be around as long as a person that did not have CF, but that does not make this any easier. I love your Blog.

  6. This hits home pretty hard this year.

    Last week our friend was in a fatal auto accident, killing herself (45) and her son (6) and leaving her son (4) critically injured. Her hubby is a God fearing man (as was she), praise the Lord! Attending their funeral yesterday was just heart wrenching. I haven’t stopped hurting for them.

  7. When my son was a few months old, my husband just up and left us a few months before Christmas. We were devastated. My daughter was 5yrs old and I had no money for presents. The DHS put my kids names on the Angel Tree at a local Walmart. A few days before Christmas, Santa knocked on our door and dropped off several wrapped gifts. They each got clothes and toys. I have never forgotten that moment. Ever year since then, I take a name off the Angel Tree and return the favor.

  8. This is a thoughtful post! Thank you and I’m so sorry for your loss. Last Christmas I was grieving the loss of our little boy to a late-term miscarriage. I received two very kind gifts that blessed me. My husband gave me a figurine of an angel holding a baby. This memorial is so precious too me. The other was fun. My in-laws gave us a Wii. I’m not really a video game girl, but they noticed that playing the Wii at their house made me smile and relax. It was so thoughtful of them, and that meant the world to me! A memorial and a smile – both thoughtful gifts for someone who is hurting. Most meaningful of all was that they could see my heart, and I felt that. Thank you Father in heaven for caring family!

  9. My Daddy passed away on December 29th last year. This has been such a tough year. I have children so I cannot allow my sorrow to upset their Christmas. It is hard, but I know that he would want me to make their holiday bright. He used to “play” Santa every year, and my brother went out yesterday and bought a Santa suit. He decided he wants to keep the tradition going! I wish all that are hurting and struggling a very, Merry Christmas! May God bring peace to all of your hearts!