Merry and bright celebrations typically mark the holiday season, but for grieving hearts, this time of year often amplifies feelings of loss and sorrow. A family death, an empty chair, or ambiguous grief over someone or something missing triggers sadness.
But ignoring our grief only stifles the comfort given by God and others. The resources below are for both the grievers and the comforters. Let’s handle each other with wisdom and care this season.
For those who are grieving:
- With fresh grief, manage your expectations and give yourself grace to attend celebrations or not, to hold on to traditions or let some go. It’s ok to change your mind last minute.
- Simplify celebrations (paper plates) and delegate (don’t host unless you want to). Be honest about what you can handle.
- Honor your missing loved one with a special ornament, a favorite tradition, or by telling fun family stories.
- Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad. Rest, get light exercise, and practice intentional gratitude to help your overall well-being.
For those who are offering support:
- Listen. Don’t speak.
- Provide practical help without waiting to be told what they need – food, gift cards, errands, help with the kids. Those in deep grief have a hard time naming their needs.
- Be personal. Say the name of the one who’s gone. Share a memory. Give a meaningful gift in their memory – an ornament, a photo, a tree, or a memorial object.
- Don’t offer a verse or platitude, even if it’s true. Pray for discernment in timing. Some people need to talk through the loss, others need distraction or laughter – sometimes it’s both. Let God work through their grief, He is close to the brokenhearted.
25 Ways to Help Manage Grief in Holidays
While the holiday season often magnifies the pain of loss, these 25 ways to help manage grief in holidays offer practical and meaningful ways to find comfort. From keeping traditions that help to letting others go, manage your own expectations and offer grace to yourself.
What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Suffering
I just want someone to be there. To weep with me. To say she is sorry things are so hard. To not expect me to have perfect theology…What an amazing gift it is not to feel judged by every word I utter in desperation.
What to Say to Someone Suffering Like Job
When your friend starts saying things about God that are not theologically true, resist the urge to correct him. Your friend’s bad theology is only a symptom of a deeper trauma … [and] is also temporary. As God restores him, God will gently challenge those unworthy things your friend said about his divine friend.
Three Things to Consider Before Sharing Scripture With a Hurting Friend
There is a back door for sharing Truth when the amygdala has taken over the brain’s logic center. For me, the back door is music and a hand to hold. For my child, it is food and/or the dog.
What to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving
We don’t have to say words to send a message. We can tell someone how much we care by showing up and by listening.
Navigating Grief During the Holidays (38 minutes)
But to use their actual name somehow esteems your loss in it. It somehow demonstrates, “I remember.” And this person you loved, I loved him too and I miss him, too.
The Surprising Power of Lament (32 minutes)
[T]he Bible gave voice to the fact that there are two things that happen in suffering: I believe that God is good, but this is really hard. And lament is the language of what you pray when you’re in pain that leads you to the point of trust.
Tethered to Christ (42 minutes)
When life is short, it’s so precious. And it really gets you thinking about what matters and what’s going to last.
The One Year Book of Hope (devotional) by Nancy Guthrie
Quiet Assurance – Meditations for a Grieving Heart (devotional) by Thelma Nienhuis
What Grieving People Wish You Knew – about what really helps (and what really hurts) by Nancy Guthrie
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop
When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada
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This song, Blessings, was a lifeline to me during our four years of infertility. In her intro to the song, Joni Eareckson Tada shared: “Be with people. Don’t slap biblical truth down like it were a pint of blood and say, ‘Here! Ingest this, this will do you good. You’ll feel a lot better; it will show you how to rejoice in suffering.’ Hook your spiritual veins up to the one who is bleeding out of control with depression and infuse your life into them. It’s going to cost you something, but normal Christian service is always sacrificial service.”