Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

Gifts Grieving People Want from You at Christmas how to care for someone in their grief while everyone else celebrates with joy

For people who are grieving, Christmas is not necessarily a season of joy. If we’re not careful, we can extenuate their grief by how we interact with them.



But, before we decide to just give all our grieving friends space and solitude over the holiday, let me share with you three gifts your grieving friends actually do want from you this Christmas season.

Five years ago, my mother was killed in a car accident. December twenty-third is her birthday, so Christmastime serves as a hearty reminder she’s no longer here. In many ways, it has been easy for me to simply not think about it over this time of year. But ignoring grief is not what is best.

When I consider the gifts friends have given me in my grief, three particular kinds of gifts stand out in my mind.

The Gift of Presence

Grieving people want to be with others. They don’t necessarily have anything in mind that they want to do—that’s part of the point. They simply want to be present with whatever is going on even if, in their heart, they are not all there.

A grieving person will need a place to retreat to, especially when it hits her how much joy everyone else is experiencing with family and friends. The Christmas season, or any holiday, is not necessarily a joyful one for those who grieve. But they need your presence, your including them in whatever’s going on, so they don’t feel entirely alone.

The Gift of Empathy

One of the best gifts you could give a grieving person is empathy. Empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy has an “I-feel-sorry-for-you” connotation. Empathy stems from self-awareness and others-awareness. It shows all-around sensitivity.

Someone who has also experienced grief will naturally be able to share empathy (unless he has never processed his own grief). But anyone can give the gift of empathy by paying close attention to how a grieving person is feeling, and being careful in what they say and do as not to add to or highlight the grieving person’s pain.

Care for them, but don’t put them on the spot. Include them in your life, but be conscious of the parts of your life that may bring out their pain.

The point of empathy is not to cause one to not say or do anything. The point is simply to do one’s best in walking in the other person’s shoes.

The Gift of Space

Yes, grieving people need space. Sometimes that space is physical. But over the holidays, many grieving people want something to do, friends and family to be with and relieve their minds and hearts from the heaviness of grief.

Along with physical space, though, grieving people need the emotional space to be who and whatever they are as they walk through grief. When we think they might be saddest, they may actually be happiest. Activities we think might lift their spirits could actually dampen them. Giving emotional space means we’re tuned in, we’re trying to care for them. But we’re also okay if things get totally weird and flop. We’re not upset. We’re not going to stop. We’ll simply pick up from here and continue going.

Grieving people need that kind of space over Christmas because Christmas has a way of bringing out emotions not even the grieving person, himself, realizes he has inside.

No one can ever have a game plan for processing grief.


Emotions simply are up and down. But having a friend who is aware of that and has some ideas of what grieving people really need can be one of the best gifts anyone can receive.

And if you want, you could add a glass of eggnog with a box of chocolates to go along with these gifts.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are. . .a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. . .Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16, Is. 53:3)

Have you experienced grief? What are things people have done for you that meant a lot at Christmas? Share in the comments below.


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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.