By Sophia Bricker, Crosswalk.com
For most people, the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas are fun-filled times with family and friends as they celebrate the season together. However, there are people grieving during these times because of the loss of a loved one or friend.
Even for people who experienced loss years in the past, the holiday season can still prove painful at times. Losing a loved one is very difficult, and the holidays can sometimes exacerbate the painful feelings of grief.
When seeking to help grieving family, friends, church members, and neighbors, believers can take practical steps to share the love and hope of Christ while giving the bereaved space and time to grieve.
Those who have lost a loved one may not be ready to celebrate the holidays, participate in regular activities, or feel like talking about their loss to others.
However, followers of Christ can deliberately serve the bereaved during the holiday season by helping them stay connected with God and others, meeting physical needs, and creating a safe place to discuss their grief.
In this way, the love of Christ can be poured out on those who are struggling to cope without their loved ones during the time of year when family and nostalgic memories often come to mind.
1. Stay Connected
During the holidays, many grieving individuals may be tempted to isolate themselves from friends and family. Others may already feel isolated because their Thanksgiving and Christmas will not be the same this year.
In either case, isolation is not helpful in times of grief, which is why staying connected and having support from others is important. In seeking to serve bereaved individuals, followers of Christ can help encourage them to stay connected with God and other people.
If the person who is struggling with sorrow is a Christian, fellow believers can meet regularly with the person to provide comfort and encouragement. During these times, other believers can remind the grieving person that they are never alone because God is with them (Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20).
By recommending that the bereaved individual talk to the Lord about their pain, fellow believers are not trying to “fix” the other person’s grief or make them feel like their emotions are wrong.
Instead, they are encouraging their brother or sister in Christ to cling to the One they desperately need during their season of loss.
Those who are non-Christians and suffering from the death of a loved one may or may not be open to talking about the gospel, but believers can be present for them and seek opportunities to share the hope of Christ with their non-Christian friends.
By consistently being present for an unbeliever who is grieving, Christians have a chance to eternally impact their friend as they pray and show love to the individual throughout the holidays and beyond.
Providing companionship and one’s own presence amid the person’s pain, believers can have a positive influence on their non-Christian friends and family. This also provides a much-needed support system to keep those who are grieving connected with others.
2. Meet Physical Needs
When Elijah was depressed and suicidal, God sent an angel who fed the prophet and allowed him to rest (1 Kings 19:3-6).
Likewise, after the world-changing events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Christ appeared to the emotionally exhausted disciples and offered them a breakfast of fish and bread He had prepared for them (John 21:4-13).
Throughout Scripture, the Lord meets His people where they are and allows them time to be refreshed after difficult circumstances. One way of encouraging refreshment is providing those who are bereaved with food and rest.
Believers who are seeking to serve grieving friends, family, and church members can follow in their Master’s footsteps by seeking to meet the physical needs of those experiencing grief.
During the holidays, meals and grocery items can be given to grieving individuals and families to tangibly show the love of Christ. Sometimes those who are experiencing grief can have difficulty carrying out everyday facets of life, such as cooking meals, which is why providing food is important.
While Christians can give food to the bereaved and hurting, they should be mindful that specifically bringing holiday food such as Thanksgiving and Christmas-related dishes may cause painful reminders of loss.
Instead of trying to furnish grieving individuals and families with holiday meals, which may make their grief worse, giving simple dishes of nourishment and comfort is best. A Thanksgiving turkey roast may seem like a wonderful gesture but avoiding holiday-related items may be more helpful depending on the situation.
3. Create a Safe Place
Finally, followers of Christ can intentionally help bereaved individuals by working with their church to provide a safe place where those who are suffering can freely talk about their sorrow and loss.
This is essential in providing ongoing support to grieving individuals and families in one’s church and community. Oftentimes, Christians feel unsupported by their churches during times of loss or are even made to feel like they have no faith because they are grieving the loss of loved ones.
Believers are not to grieve like those in the world, who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but experiencing sorrow is a legitimate response to the death of a loved one. In fact, God the Son grieved and wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). The capacity to feel sorrow and grieve over the loss of a loved one is not sinful or wrong.
Many churches have gone too long intentionally or unintentionally leaving bereaved individuals without support and encouragement from their family in Christ. For this reason, Christians in local churches need to create a safe place for grieving individuals to be supported in their time of loss.
Creating small groups or support groups centered on those who are experiencing grief can be a great way to minister to hurting individuals, both during the holiday season and beyond.
As Paul said in Philippians 2:4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (NIV).
While the needs of those who have lost loved ones can be easily overlooked, intentional efforts to support grieving individuals and families are valuable and reflect the attitude of Christ.
Believers in Christ longingly look forward to the ultimate celebration when God will wipe away all tears in a new heaven and earth where there will be no death (Revelation 21:1-4).
Until that day, Christians can be intentional about helping those who are hurting due to loss, which can be tougher for individuals and families during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
While year-round support should be given to grieving individuals by other believers and their churches, there are many practical ways to help those who are experiencing grief during the holidays.
Not only can Christians and church groups help individuals stay connected with God and others, but they can also provide tangible love in the form of food and ongoing support through ministry.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Kerkez
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.