The death of a loved one is difficult under normal circumstances. The approach of the first Christmas without the presence of a beloved family member or friend can be devastating emotionally and almost be too much to bear.
The joy that a person normally associates with the Christmas season is replaced with sorrow. Well-meaning friends may try to console the bereaved by suggesting that the deceased would want them to celebrate Christmas as they had done in years past.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the first Christmas season after the death of a loved one will be a very difficult time for those left behind. For those saddened souls, the greatest gift we can give them is our respect and compassion for how they are feeling at this time in their life.
At the start of the holiday season most people are sending Christmas cards. Out of respect for those who have experienced a tragic loss in their life, one should be careful not to send them stock cards that may have words that might further wound them, as some may be too jovial or be joking in nature.
The best card to send would be of a serene setting with a short handwritten notation such as the following:
“Wishing you the gift of tranquil times for the coming year.”
“May peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!”
“The Gift of Love. The Gift of Peace. May all these be yours at Christmas.”
It would be appropriate to add a personal note to let the grieving know that you are aware of their pain and sorrow during this Christmas season, and your thoughts are with them. Not speaking about the loss will further isolate the bereaved.
During the holiday season, the grieving may feel detached from the rest of the world, and some may prefer solitude. Others may appreciate it if they are extended an offer to go shopping or to go out for a bite to eat.
If they decline the invitation, try to infer that their expertise is needed to help choose a particular item. If they continue to decline, accept their decision but leave an open invitation for a future excursion.
Deciding on what type of gift to present to the grieving can leave many people perplexed. The gift item should be no different than what would normally have been given.
In addition to whatever gift you purchase for the bereaved, offering a small memorial gift such as a candle, a keepsake box or memorial jewelry can be wonderful gifts of remembrance.
If the family has a tradition of putting up a Christmas tree, a memorial ornament that displays a treasured photo of the deceased may be appropriate.
Aim for whatever gift, gesture or note that will make the recipient smile, be it ever so brief. Sometimes that smile may be the greatest gift we can give to help those going through their first Christmas without the one they love.