The Holidays are a time of joy, celebration and gathering of family and friends. But what if someone close to you has recently died or is terminally ill? For those of us who have experienced a recent loss of a loved one, the Holidays can be an especially difficult time.

I am often asked “What can I give to a family in honor of a loved one lost? There are many thoughtful Holiday gestures that I have seen over the years – a plate of Holiday Treats favored by the loved one, a donation made to his/her favorite charity or a special ornament hung on the Holiday Tree.

Here are some helpful ideas for you to bring a little comfort to those facing tough times:

  1. Write a note that are thinking of them and their loved ones
  2. Offer to run errands or assist with Holiday chores
  3. Share a meal
  4. Deliver a gift of baked goodies
  5. Include them in your holiday activities (but don’t be offended if they decline)
  6. Watch that sad movie they want to see and cry together
  7. Establish a new ritual – a quiet brunch the week before or after the holiday, a meal you prepare together on a week night or an afternoon tea…

If you are the one experiencing the loss, here are some other helpful ideas:

  1. Practice a forgotten ritual or invent a new one
  2. Light a candle every day
  3. Pray, Laugh, Cry
  4. Look at favorite photographs while listening to music
  5. Volunteer or make a charitable donation in your loved one’s name
  6. Journal your feelings, fears, disappointments and hopes
  7. Eat, sleep, rest and cry some more.

The most important thing to do at this time of year for a grieving family is simply remember. This can be a very isolating and sad time for the surviving family and friends. They might really appreciate you dropping by simply to reminisce and share stories. A woman who lost her husband a few years back said, “Just hearing friends mention his name brought enormous joy into my saddened heart during this difficult time of year.” Almost any gesture you make will make it a little easier for those left behind.

May your Holidays be filled with love, compassion and gratitude.