’Tis the season to be jolly, falalalala … until it’s not. Truth? When you’re struggling with your current circumstances, grieving, have lost your job (or struggling in your job), facing a scary health situation or living with less-than-ideal family dynamics, the holidays can feel like running an American Ninja Warrior course over and over again with zero training beforehand: daunting, exhausting, and unending. I say this as someone who has both blissfully falalalala-ed and grieved her way through Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s. That’s why I want us to talk about the ways we can all help hurting friends this holiday season.
Check in. Send a text or stop by your friend’s house. Make sure they’re doing things that require putting on real pants and washing their face.
Pray for them. If God brings them to mind, don’t hesitate to stop and pray for them — and then send a text so they know.
Pray with them. It’s nice to hear “I’m praying for you,” but better yet? Hearing someone talk to God about you and your circumstances. It’s a gift and reminder that you’re not alone.
Invite them/include them when it comes to holiday events. Certainly, there’s a possibility that your friend may not feel like showing up to your annual Kris Kringle Karaoke Extravaganza, but extend the invitation anyways. It will help them know they aren’t forgotten or “too much” right now.
Expect tears and embrace the awkwardness. You know what’s messy and real life? Loss. Fear. Doubts and questions. If you’re out shopping and a friend begins to cry because they heard a song their grandpa always played or because they thought “surely this Christmas will be different,” that’s ok. That’s real life and you have the opportunity to stand in the hurt with them.
Open your house on Big Days. Banner days like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be extraordinarily difficult and ache with loneliness when faced all alone. Don’t let your friends experience that. Invite them over for brunch or lunch or movies or whatever else your family is up to. Worried that your big, crazy extended family will be way too much for them? Your family might actually be the company or distraction they need to get through the day.
Handle the small things that may slip their mind. Tackle the stocking stuffers for their kids or make sure their pipes are wrapped ahead of freezing weather. Offer to go to the post office for them. Clean their house ahead of company or arrange for a house cleaner.
Go shopping together for Angel Tree or Operation Christmas Child. Doing a project for someone else helps everyone remember there are lots of hurting people in our community. And we can all do something to brighten another person’s day.
Force your way in (in the nicest possible way). It’s likely your friend won’t feel motivated to go out and about in all the glitz of the season … and it’s also likely they’ll tell you they’re fine and there’s no need to worry. This is when you tell them you’re coming over with food and a movie. If they’re going to stay in, you’re staying with them.
Help them with a project around the house. If something like decorating the tree feels overwhelming, offer to come over and tackle the activity together. And when something strikes a memory, let them share. Remember what I said about making room for tears and awkwardness? This could be that time. Ask them about those special ornaments or traditions they miss, ask them about those funny “Christmas gone wrong” moments we’ve all had. One of the achiest things about loved ones dying is that many people around you can feel nervous to bring them up because they’re unsure how you’ll feel or react. But for someone who has lost a loved one, having the opportunity to share a story or memory, even just a reason to say their name out loud is a gift.
Invite them along. If your family is going to a Christmas concert or to look at lights, invite them along! Families, if you have single friends, don’t just assume they won’t want to hang with your crazy crew. What’s normal (aka loud and hectic) to you may be a welcome change of pace for them.
Ask them to help you with something. You know what happens in difficult seasons? People do a lot of sitting and thinking and feeling like the world is an impossible place. It’s great, for a change, to have a project that’s easily accomplished in an afternoon. Invite a buddy over to help bring out your wife’s 43 boxes of Christmas décor or hang up lights outside. Go hit golf balls or find another activity that doesn’t require talking. Anything that offers the chance to hang out and get something done.
Take a shift for them. If your friend is caring for someone who’s sick, offer to go to and sit at the chemo appointment one day. You can take their kids out for a fun activity or for an evening playdate — anything to give them a morning or afternoon to spend with their spouse, tackle some errands or just be on their own.
Give an anonymous gift card – for groceries, Christmas gifts, a date night, anything.
Leave a meal on their porch. If your friend insists on staying home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, make them a special dinner or warm breakfast and drop it off on their porch along with a book, movie or magazine. Then send a text and let them know you’re still thinking of them.
In all of this, here’s the important thing to remember: Sometimes (okay, most of the time) you have to tell your friend that you’re going to do these things. People in grief, loss or less than stellar circumstances often will not ask for help … even if you drop the common “let me know if you need anything” into conversation. We (the friends wanting to help) are afraid of stepping on toes. We don’t want to barge in and disrupt in a trying time, but often that’s exactly what our hurting friend needs.
We have to be ready and willing to embrace the messy and uncomfortable for each other, so take a minute and think: Who in your life is hurting? Think of the people at the top of your text message list, the parents you see at school dropoff/pickup, the cashiers you always talk to at the grocery store. Someone is hobbling through this season and you have the opportunity to help them walk a little straighter and remember the great hope our God offers.
Who will it be?
Surviving the Holidays
Saturday, Nov. 23
10 a.m. to noon
Link Classroom North at the Fort Worth Campus
Are you dreading the holidays due to a recent loss? Navigating the holidays after losing a loved one can be a challenge to say the least. That’s why we want to help you prepare. At Surviving the Holidays we talk about what to do with the surprising emotions, favorite traditions and other changes you may encounter, plus where to find the comfort, strength and hope you most need.
Join us any Sunday!
Whatever your week was like, you’re welcome here at Christ Chapel. Gather with us on Sundays for community, worship and truth for your everyday life.
Fort Worth Campus: 9:15 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
West Campus: 9:30 and 11 a.m.
South Campus: 11 a.m.