Do you ever wish you knew exactly what to say or do for a friend who is hurting during the holidays? I know from both sides this is a complicated topic. It may feel so awkward that you are tempted to stay away because you don't want to do the wrong thing. But, I learned many valuable lessons from the courageous and caring friends who walked beside us during our darkest times. Their love was like a balm that took away some of the sting of the holidays. I'd like to tell you about just a few.
Show up. Just being there is the most valuable gift you can give to a grieving friend. If they are alone, invite them to share the holidays with your family. Allow them the space to come for part of the time or decline if they are not up to it at all. The most important thing is that you make yourself available without expectation. Sometimes we feel like we need to speak words to solve their grief. But, there is no solving their suffering; I've received some of the greatest comfort when no words were spoken at all. I remember during a tough day after our daughter Nicole went to Heaven - I was lying on the living room floor, and a dear friend just came in. She sat next to me on the floor with her legs crossed, gently placed her hand on my head, and stroked my hair as I cried. She had no expectations of a response from me and didn't say a word; she was just there.
Don't be afraid to talk about their loved one. We may feel inclined not to bring up their loss, fearing that we may cause their grief to be increased. It is essential to realize that they are always aware of the loss and concerned that their loved one will be forgotten. My heart still is comforted when I hear other people talk about our daughter Nicole and share special memories of her. My friend Nellie would send me letters, not just during the holidays but also throughout the first year. She would write about her memories of Nicole and the ways Nicole's life encouraged her. She would remind me that our daughter was not forgotten, and she was thinking of her.
Give a small gift or token in memory of their loved one. I have a friend named Cindy who, every year for several years after losing Nicole, gave me a Christmas ornament in memory of her. Now, I can't help but smile when I get ready to decorate the tree and see all those ornaments given in love. It reminds me that I am loved. It may not be a gift, but an act of service in their loved one's name. Giving blood, serving at a soup kitchen, or planting a tree in their yard. It can be anything you do from your heart that honors the memory of the one they have lost.
These are just a few examples of the people God sent to our family who taught us how to love. I'm so grateful for them and desire to be that type of friend, one who pushes through the uncomfortable tension when someone has lost a loved one.
2 Corinthians 1:4
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.