When loss makes the holidays hard

I never imagined spending the first day of a holiday weekend in the ER, my body racked with flu-like symptoms brought on by a miscarriage in process.

But there I was.

My husband Ted and I sat in a small hospital waiting room. Instead of being surrounded by our three young daughters, we sat next to strangers, all with urgent ailments of their own.

Several hours, an ultrasound, countless nurses, and a doctor later, I entered the operating room for a D&C. That night, we returned home, physically weary and emotionally raw.

That was over seven years ago.

Now, every year, when this holiday weekend comes, there’s a part of me that grieves and struggles to celebrate.

Watch: How should I respond to a friend experiencing a tragedy or a crisis?

Maybe you know someone who has also experienced loss and finds a holiday difficult. For me, it’s Easter. For them, though, it might be Thanksgiving or Christmas.

How can you support and be there for them when loss makes the holidays hard? Here are a few suggestions.

Offer your presence 

You and I aren’t able to erase someone else’s sorrow, but what we can do is help them feel less alone. As the holidays approach, offer your presence. A few practical ways you can do this include:

  • Call when you have time to chat and aren’t distracted or rushed
  • Treat them to coffee, breakfast, or dinner and be willing to simply listen
  • Offer to run holiday errands with them, especially ones that may be more difficult because they remind them of their loss

Following our miscarriage, a dear friend called me every few days. Her words of comfort and willingness to listen were just what I needed.

Be willing to reminisce 

My father-in-law passed away a little over a year ago. Each time I’ve visited with my mother-in-law since, we find ourselves recalling fond memories of him. It does both of our hearts good to reminisce.

Don’t be afraid to remember the past with someone who is missing a loved one during the holidays. When we choose to recall, we validate that an individual and the impact they made still matter.

Ask the right questions

In my book Braving Sorrow Together, I talk to several of my friends who are single moms either due to divorce or the death of a husband. Each of these women told me how important it was for others to ask them the right questions.

What is a “right” question? It’s the type of inquiry that doesn’t delve too deeply into their emotional state without invitation. Instead, these questions ask how you and I can help fill a practical need. For example:

  • Can I come clean your house for you this week?
  • I’m headed to the grocery store, what can I pick up for you while I’m there?
  • What afternoon can I watch your kids for you?

This holiday season, take the time to think of those you know who may find celebrating hard. Then, actively seek out ways that you can offer your presence, reminisce with them, and ask the right questions.

Now read this: The only way to heal from a painful past 

This post originally appeared on For The Family and was republished with permission. 

Ashleigh Slater is the author of “Team Us: Marriage Together” and “Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard.” Find out more about Ashleigh at AshleighSlater.com or follow her on Facebook.


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