Do you have that one person still on your Christmas gift list for whom you have no idea what to buy? And if you are like me, after you choose something, you include a gift receipt anyway. It is challenging enough to pick out gifts, but what do you give someone who is grieving? How do you celebrate the season with a person mired in pain?
This year, you may know people who are grieving the loss of a loved one and dreading the holidays. It can be difficult to choose a present for someone who only wants a loved one back.
In spite of the variety of stores and online shopping, your usual ideas fall flat. Sure, things like sweaters, tools, or games fill the box, but do they fulfill their needs?
If you cannot find the present that fits, you may be looking in the wrong places. Walk out of the store and shut down the computer because what many people need comes from the heart.
Here are some ideas to get you started. These gifts are not always a one-size-fits-all type of present. Take time to listen and find out what may work best for your grieving friend or family member.
Gift of Presence—Your presence may be just the gift someone needs. Spend time with people who hurt. Ask if they want to go do things. Assure them it is all right if they cry or are not enthusiastic. Be patient if they just want to spend time doing quiet activities. The point of this gift is not to force them into your idea of fun, but to be present for them.
Gift of Listening—The gift of listening works for anyone. The key to presenting this gift lies in what not to do. Do not try to fix someone. Do not try to take away the pain. Do not talk too much. Do not judge or give advice. Do not be afraid of tears or silence. Listen. The world is short on listeners, and this gift will never lose its value.
Gift of Space—Maybe someone could use a gift of space. Give someone space to grieve in his or her own way, to adapt holiday traditions, and to be alone when needed but not forgotten. You can also give someone space to cry, to laugh, and to know that there is room for him or her even while grieving.
Gift of Remembrance—Those empty chairs at the table are usually more visible during holidays. A loved one who has died recently—or many years ago—is still dearly missed. Give a gift of remembrance. Say the name of the one who died. Ask to hear stories about him or her. Share your own stories. Make a memorial ornament. Create a tradition in memory of the loved one. Even if it has been ten years or more since a loss, we long to remember and love those we miss. There is nothing wrong with that.
Gift of Service—Help people rediscover the gift of service. Invite someone to go with you to serve a meal for those in need. Go together to visit people in the nursing home. Organize a toy drive for children who will otherwise not receive much. Gather winter coats and sweaters for a clothes pantry. Discover with others the gifts of being needed and helping others.
Gift of Christmas Joy—Give the gift of Christmas joy. But, you might ask, where is the joy for those who are suffering, heartbroken, or grieving? The answer is that the joy of Christmas lies right in the middle of all this pain and misery. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus because God sent His Son to heal those who are hurting. The joy of Christmas resides in love for others, hope for a better world, and peace for all, even during times of brokenness.
Consider which of these gifts is a good fit for you and the person receiving. Sometimes your offers will be turned down, but be patient. People grieve on their own schedule. Hopefully, these ideas inspire you to think of other ways to help those hurting this Christmas.
Perhaps you noticed. You need no money to give these gifts; they are priceless.
Nancy Berns is the author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us.