The Season Of Joy- And Hurt

I rarely have the right words to say.  So I make jokes, or say inappropriate things, or say nothing.  I can come across as crass or unfeeling quite often.  Not proud of that, just fact.

But it also makes me pretty forgiving of others who don’t get the right words out.  I care way more about intent and heart than about the right words, and there are so many times that words are inadequate anyway.

So for those who are sometimes at a loss in the most difficult of times, I thought I’d give some tips.  Why now?

Because it’s the start of the season of Joy.  But also the season of great loss and sorrow.

Even those celebrating with family and finding joy throughout this season may be missing someone.  Or may be facing financial troubles that overshadow all else.  Or may be healing from heartbreak.  There’s a lot of darkness in homes this time of year.

My 10 tips for helping a hurting friend :

1.  Assume everyone is facing something and give them the benefit of the doubt when their words aren’t quite right.

2.  When you know they’re missing someone who has passed away or missing, let them talk about their loved one.  You don’t have to have the right words, you just have to ask about their traditions or past holidays and listen.  Pretending they aren’t gone won’t make it easier for them.

3.  Don’t ask if someone needs help.  If there’s a reason for you to ask, you probably already know there is a need.  They’re probably not going to tell you specifically or even say so.  Look around- maybe they need a meal, their yard taken care of, or just a coffee brought to them.  Don’t ask, just do.

4.  Give something personal and meaningful.  Small meaningful gifts that remind them they’re loved mean the most.

5.  Don’t offer religious catch phrases.  Did you know that it is not biblical that God won’t give you more than you can handle?  (Great article about that here).

6.  Invite them but don’t push them.  Depending on the situation or their place in the cycle of grief, they may not be ready.  But they also may just need to be asked and loved.

7.  Enjoy your family.  No one hurting truly wants those around them to feel the way the do.

8.  Don’t remind them that it will get better.  It doesn’t help and they probably already know that.  But imagining the time when they’ll miss their loved one less only means imagining even more time passing.

9.  Encourage.  Cards, text, voice mails, all to let them know they’re on your mind.

10.  Pray.  It works.

With two young kids and the most amazing friends, the holidays are full of joy.  But even then there are moments of sadness missing Austin and others.  And I know many for whom the grief overshadows the joy.

I hope this starts you thinking about how you can help a friend experiencing that this season.






  1. My father in law died on Christmas night in 1998. I’ve experienced this firsthand The first Christmas after his death was very hard on my mother in law and, in a way, for all of us. I thank you for these suggestions.
    Alana (@RamblinGarden) recently posted…Best of AM – The Good Old Days That Never WereMy Profile

  2. #s 3 4 9 and 10 speak the most to me…they are so true especially #3…I feel like when someone asks how they can help they are making themselves feel better…when really people who are hurting just need you to DO SOMETHING!

    great tips!
    April Best recently posted…Guest Post by: Chris MorrisMy Profile

  3. Thank you, a few of these I knew but number 7 really jumped out at me. We are transitioning from some hard holidays to some easier ones. It’s taken a lot if work to get to a place to enjoy thanksgiving and I hesitateas I see people I love who struggle, this year will be hard for them. Thank you, for the good reminders.
    Colleen English recently posted…Better Than French FriesMy Profile

  4. I think it is great that you can enjoy the holidays but also acknowledge your hurt at having some one so vital missing from your celebrations. Beyond that, I think you awesome for never giving up hope.
    Kerri recently posted…Being includedMy Profile

  5. I can totally relate to the beginning of your blog. I’ve often been thought of as “stuck up” because many times I keep quiet when I don’t know what to say. Other times, I say something inappropriate, and realize later I’ve sounded like a jerk. I appreciate your tips. I certainly need to keep them in mind 🙂
    Rhonda recently posted…Rewarding Bad Grades: Something Parents Should ConsiderMy Profile

  6. I love #3. When my MIL was dying, the neighbors would stop by to ask what they could do. There’s no easy answer. Look in the yard. See the leaves? Make them go away. That’s so much more sincere than saying “what can I do?”
    Hugs, and happy thanksgiving, friend.


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