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When Loss Makes the Holidays Hard

The holidays are approaching and that means many of us brace ourselves for being busy and handling stressful relationships. But what if grief is part of someone's story? Try these ideas for how to love them well as they struggle with pain in this season.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 aliments 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.

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.

Ashleigh Slater


For more on loss, check out Ashleigh Slater’s book, Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life Is Hard, from Moody Publishers.

How do you cope when life is hard? Is there a way to grieve so that seasons of loss become seasons of growth? Braving Sorrow Together is about where to turn when life is hard. Ashleigh Slater weaves together Scripture, personal stories, and guest entries to comfort the suffering and encourage hopeful grieving. Whether your trials concern health, employment, relationships, or even death, grief can turn into growth when we lean on Christ and others. Braving Sorrow Together provides solace for hard times and advice for getting through them with grit and grace.

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