The holidays can be a difficult time for those who have recently lost a loved one. The season is often associated with joy and celebration, but as we gather with family, it can also be a painful reminder that someone is absent.
It can be particularly challenging as well to spend time with someone who has suffered such a recent loss, especially since you will naturally want to be there for them and offer your support. If you know someone who is experiencing their first Christmas or other holiday without a loved one, here are a few tips for how to offer support and comfort.
Supporting Someone Experiencing their First Holiday Without a Loved One
There's no perfect or foolproof way to provide support to someone still grieving a loss during the holiday season. What will help one person feel comforted and supported might not help another. However, there are some good places to start. Here are ways you can support someone grieving during the first holiday without their loved one:
- Acknowledge their grief. Let the person know that you understand that they are going through a difficult time. You can say something like, "I know this is a hard time for you, and I'm here for you." or "I'm thinking of you during this difficult holiday season." This may feel like platitudes to you, but it can be very meaningful to the griever to hear it acknowledged.
- Share memories of the deceased. Talking about the loved one can be a helpful way to keep their memory alive and to honor their life. You can share your own memories, or you can ask the person to share theirs. If the person doesn't feel in the mood to do this, they will let you know.
- Offer practical support. If you are able, offer to help the person with holiday preparations, such as cooking, cleaning, or shopping. You can also offer to take them to holiday gatherings or to just spend time with them during the holidays.
- Respect their wishes. If the person does not want to celebrate the holidays, or if they want to celebrate in a different way, respect their wishes. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It likely has nothing to do with you or friends or family and everything to do with them and their process.
Specific Things You Can Say
Being at a loss for words is common in the face of grief and mourning, especially during the holiday season. However, there are some things you can consider saying that may help. Here are some quotes and messages to say on someone's first holiday without a loved one:
- "I know this is a hard time for you, but I want you to know that you are not alone. I'm here for you, and I love you."
- "Your loved one was a special person, and they will be missed by everyone who knew them. I'm so grateful for the time I had to get to know them."
- "I'm thinking of you and your loved one during this holiday season. I know it's a difficult time, but I hope you can find some peace and comfort."
- "I'm here for you if you need to talk, cry, or just have someone to sit with you in silence."
Things to avoid saying include:
- "Your loved one wouldn't want you to be sad on Christmas."
- "They're in a better place."
- "Life goes on."
Grief-sensitive Gift-giving During Holiday Seasons
Holidays like Christmas, where it's customary to exchange gifts, are often difficult when someone is still grieving the loss of a loved one. If you're looking for a gift to give on someone's first Christmas without a loved one, here are a few ideas:
- A donation to their loved one's favorite charity in their name
- A framed photo of their loved one
- A piece of jewelry with their loved one's birthstone
- A personalized gift, such as a mug or ornament, with their loved one's name
- A gift basket filled with their loved one's favorite snacks and treats
Poetry for Comfort
Many people lack the ability to put their feelings into words during this time. However, there are plenty of songs and poems that might bring comfort in the holiday season. Here are some good poems for someone's first Christmas without a loved one:
- A First Holiday Without You by Unknown
- Christmas in Heaven by Dr. Seuss
- Holidays by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- I Will Light Candles This Christmas by Unknown
- My Angel Came to Say by Unknown
- My First Christmas in Heaven by Debra Nelson
- The Christmas Tree by Christina Rossetti
- Twas the Night Before Christmas by Faye McCord
- When Christmas Comes by Unknown
These poems offer comfort and support to those who are grieving during the holidays. They remind us that our loved ones are always with us in spirit, even though they are no longer physically here. They also remind us that the holidays can still be a time of joy, even in the midst of our grief.
Surviving the Holidays After a Loss
Grief is a journey, and everyone experiences it differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel. The most important thing is to allow yourself to grieve and to heal at your own pace, and that goes for being aware that other people will need to mourn in their own time as well.
The most important thing is to be sincere and to let the person know that you are there for them. Whether you're the one experiencing your first holiday without a loved one or it's someone else, keep these things in mind. Most of all, be kind, compassionate, patient, and understanding.
Read our next article, How to Comfort Someone Who is Grieving Through Text, if you'd like to further enhance your ability to offer solace to someone who is grieving during the holidays, particularly when you aren't always with them in person.