How to help someone who is grieving during the holidays.
Guest Blogger: Jenna Benton
“I can’t do it,” my friend whispered to me late one night over the phone. “I can’t celebrate, but I also can’t cry anymore. I’m out of tears. I don’t even want to put up my tree. He’s not here, and Christmas shouldn’t be either.”
Grief. If you haven’t experienced it yet - hang on, sis. Like saggy jowls, endless piles of laundry, and paying taxes, It’s something we all have in common eventually. If we aren’t in the middle of grief, we likely love someone who is, am I right?
I’ve experienced intense grief over the last few years, and to be honest, it feels alot like wandering. I’m not sure I’ll ever find my way out of it. Some days I lean deeply into God’s word and his love for me, and other days I’m still really mad at him. But in my heart I know he can handle my “grief wanderings.” He’s not going anywhere.
“You number my wanderings; put my tears into your bottle; are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8, NKJV
I’ve always been fascinated by this verse that says God keeps our tears in a bottle. For the record, I don’t think this passage is referring to an actual glass bottle - the meaning of the word is actually closer to a wineskin - and some translations use the word “miseries” or “tossing” instead of the word wanderings. But no matter what version of the bible you’re into, this verse leaves little doubt that God cares deeply when we suffer.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18, NIV
We may not feel him, and we may understand very little about why he allows certain things, but the Bible assures us that God is near to the brokenhearted. This doesn’t make my situation any easier, but I think it does make me stronger. And it also stirs up my love for others who are grieving. I have come to believe we were meant to mourn in community - but I also admit it’s not easy.
So, what do you do when someone you love is actually the one who is grieving? Is it possible to walk beside them in their grief?
**Here are five ways you can help someone who is grieving during the holidays**
Don’t offer a solution or a platitude. Well meaning church folk beware! Unless you want to risk being punched in the throat, DO NOT say things like, “God must have wanted her in heaven,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” or the cringy “God will never give you more than you can handle.” You cannot fix this for your person. I know you love them and you want them to feel better, but you can’t. (Read that again.) Show up, be present, but for the love - just zip it.
Remember it’s not about you. When your friend invites you into their grief, it is a sacred space. This is NOT the time to tell them about the time you lost your Aunt Edna, or how you coped when your dog died. Let them cry. Let them vent. Let them know they are safe by keeping your ears open and your stories to yourself.
Honor their needs. Don’t pressure someone to put up a Christmas tree and join in the festivities. If they say they want to be alone, honor that request. Reach out often to let them know they aren’t alone, and let them know they don’t have to get back to you. Don't take it personally if they don’t want to hang out or they don’t text you back - a friend who is gracious - instead of sensitive - is a rare gift.
Be generous. Your person will likely not ask for one solitary thing, but their expenses will likely go up immediately following a tragedy or loss. They won’t tell you they need toilet paper or coffee or gas money. If you can spare it, go shopping for them, or if you feel led, you can give them cash or a gift card. It really does lighten the load and make them feel less alone. They might forget to say thank you, but be generous anyway.
Share. If you knew their loved one, take some time and write them a letter about your fondest memories or the things you loved about them. I had a few people do this for me, and I will always treasure those notes and stories.
What about you? What are some ways that you have walked with someone who is grieving? If you take some time to reach out to someone during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we’d love to hear about it!
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