How to Help Someone Grieving During the Holidays

The Holidays are quickly approaching, and though it’s a magical time for most, those who have experienced a recent loss tend to struggle. Family gatherings and celebrations are often a painful reminder of what is missing in their life. As I think back over the past seven years following my daughter’s death, I realize there were many people who made a conscious effort to help us get through the Holidays.  I wanted to compile different ways to help someone experiencing grief survive this time of year. 

  1. Acknowledge the loss. It’s okay to acknowledge the loss. Often times people say, “I don’t want to make them sad,” but I can assure you they’ve already thought about their situation. Please realize that by saying, “I’m sorry,” at any time after someone has passed away is never inappropriate or too late. 

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  2. Don’t be afraid to ask. We experienced Christmas just a few months after we lost our daughter. I realize it was difficult for family to know or understand the best way to help us, but I was so grateful when one side of the family asked how they could make it easier for us. I was thankful they asked, because though I loved my nephews and nieces, I didn’t want to watch them open presents. I just couldn’t. I felt guilty for feeling this way, but couldn't help it. When a family member asked how they could help, I was grateful to be given the opportunity to quietly share my feelings. After conversing, we decided that my husband and I would take off a little early on Christmas Eve before they opened presents. In contrast, when we visited the other side on Christmas day, I didn’t dare speak up and they carried on with tradition like usual. After watching the kids open presents, I went downstairs and cried. It made for a difficult day. 


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  3. Think about all family members. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a million times easier finding a grief related gift for women than it is men and boys, but one thing I’ve observed is that males need to know they have support too. Try to acknowledge everyone in the family, including children. One year I dropped off a gift for a neighbor who had recently lost his brother. His wife later told me that was the first time he had been given a gift, everyone else had only thought about his parents. Since then I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on more than just the female(s) in the family.  Here are a couple gift suggestions for men -here and here, and children - here. 


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  4. Take Action. While grieving, it’s not uncommon to find it difficult to celebrate. A great way to help someone grieving is by incorporating their loved one into the holiday. Christmas ornaments, decor, jewelry, or even decorating headstones can be a great way to help remind them their loved one won’t be forgotten. When my husband and I struggled to decorate that first year, my dad showed up on our doorstep a few days before Christmas with a tree and angel ornaments in hand. (Read more about it here) I bawled while decorating the tree and was grateful for his unwavering support. I could tell he was nervous, but I’m so grateful he decided to act. To this day, we still decorate our angel tree with the same ornaments he bought us and use it as a way to incorporate Preslee during the Holidays.

  5. Lighten their load. The holidays can be a stressful time of year for many different reasons, but when grief gets mixed in, it become just plain hard. One way to help relieve the stress of those grieving is by lightening their load. Whether it be dropping off paper products to help with dishes, making/buying dinner, or shoveling their walk way, your act of kindness won’t go unnoticed. 


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  6. Read. If you aren’t familiar with the grieving process, take a few minutes and look into it. One of the best ways to support someone is learning more about their situation. This will help you understand what they need and will hopefully help you be a little more sympathetic to their situation. My aunt sent some information on grief to my parents right before the Holidays and my mom later shared with me how grateful she was for it. Understanding the grieving process will go a long ways and might just give you a little glimpse of why they are reacting or feeling the way that they are.

I know we’re not alone in this, because so many of you have shared similar experiences. Was there something that someone specifically did that helped you during the Holidays that I missed? If so, let us know, below.