Holiday-Time Help for Someone in Grief


by Marta Felber.

Holiday times are among the hardest for those who have lost a loved one. Memories come flooding back, and the longing for the person who is gone may feel almost unbearable.

Bereaved persons have special needs. What gifts are appropriate for them? Here are five gift-giving ideas for persons who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Give the gift of understanding. “This must be such a difficult time for you,” you might offer.  “Tell me how it is for you; I want to hear.”  Help the person to plan for this season, being realistic and kind to themselves as they plan. They may need your support to say no to some traditional responsibilities. Be sensitive when inviting them to take part in festivities and give them an out, “I’d love to have you, but I understand if you don’t feel like it. Or maybe you’d like to come for just a little while.”

Give the gift of memories. Share the memories you have of the person who died. The person grieving for their loved one is longing to hear these. It is one way of keeping their loved one close. Use the person’s name, not “your husband” or, “your mother.”  What did you appreciate about the person? Recall the pleasant experiences that you shared. Incidents unknown to the grieving person are the best. Encourage them to tell their memories of holidays past with their loved one, even if you have heard these stories many times.

Give gifts they can touch. Look through your photos for one of the loved one that they may not have and put it in a special frame. Perhaps you have a letter you have kept from the person who died that you can share. Find a beautifully bound journal in which they can write their thoughts and feelings. Or choose an appropriate book from the many on grief and healing. A cheerful blooming potted plant would brighten their home and remind them that you care. Fill a basket with treats that you know they like that might tempt their appetite at a time when they may not feel like eating.

Give the gift of yourself. Call frequently, with “Just thinking about you and wondering how your day is going.”  Stay in the present with the person in grief; that is the only place they can be. So refrain from the “It-will-get-better” type of messages. Help the person with any jobs that they choose to do, like decorating, writing cards, or their own gift-giving.

Visit and sit quietly with them. Tune in to where they are, not where you are. If they begin to cry, let them cry and just be with them. Best of all, listen, really listen — because that is the most appreciated gift you can give.

Give the gift of love. Say the words “I love you,” if you really mean it. The person in grief needs desperately to hear that message. If both of you are “touching people,” give frequent hugs. If not, make physical contact in some way: touch their arm or hold their hand. And, whenever you are with this person, let the love and caring that you feel fill your eyes. They will see it there and know you are sincere.  

Marta Felber is the author of Grief Expressed: When a Mate Dies. Copyright © 1997 by Marta Felber. $24.95 for the Deluxe Gift Edition that is bound in a European style cover (with extended cover flaps) and is packaged in a gold foil-stamped sleeve. Available in local bookstores or call 800-798-0100. For more information click here.