There is no point is saying the holidays are difficult for those who are grieving. It’s a foregone conclusion. But, as it is one of my personal missions to share with others the lessons I’ve learned from being on the other side of the abyss I am compelled to blog about ways we can help those who are struggling to get through them.

Things to remember:

1. Waking up alone on Christmas morning, especially in the first year is hard. Waking up knowing you are going to spend the day alone is crushing. Please invite these people into your home, buy them a small present and give them comfort during this day.

2. If you aren’t able to share your Christmas with others then invite them out for coffee, a movie, or a walk some time during the week between Christmas and New Years. A dinner invite for a home cooked meal (or even ordered pizza) is also a low-key way to give comfort without the pressure of eating in a public space.

3. Alcohol may not be the best gift for someone who is grieving. Think carefully about this one. Gifts of self-care such as massages, luxurious bath products, homemade cookies, and food baskets may all help lessen the load during this stressful time. Tickets for an upcoming event are also a good idea: it is always good to have something to look forward to.

4. Helping others. If you volunteer at Christmas then invite the bereaved to come along. Sometimes seeing we all need help makes us feel less alone. On the other hand, a simple “no” to an invite of this type should be quickly honored. Not everyone is strong enough to do this in the beginning.

5. Light a candle or make a donation in memory of the departed. Share this information in person with their loved ones.

6. Watch for what to exclude and what to include. I couldn’t listen to Christmas carols that first Christmas. Listening, singing and humming along to carols at the end of the day beginning December 1 had become a tradition. That year they just made me cry. So Christmas with my family was carol free. Christmas with my family by choice meant we set a place for Richard at the table and placed his photo there. After the meal his glass of wine (one of his favourites) was shared between two of us and though no food had been set out, we gave the dogs some of the turkey he would surely have enjoyed. We included him in a different way. There are no right or wrong answers.

7. Because there are no right or wrong answers when one grieves the most important thing for those grieving to remember is to honor and to do what they need to do to get through and for us, as their friends and family to simply be there and support them and to make sure they know this to be true. They may choose to escape physically to another location but if not, creating small escapes with and for them is tremendously helpful.

Many thanks and much love to those who helped me and my family move through those days. They were hard, but made easier by your companionship, compassion and caring.