By Lee Merrill

hen someone's grieving, the holidays have a cruel way of magnifying the loss. Whether it's the constant ache from a recent loss or the sneaky kind that simmers below the surface and boils over at unpredictable times, grief makes the holidays a tricky time for the grieving and for the people who love them. Although grief is uncomfortable for everyone, it's a true act of love and compassion to sit in discomfort with the grieving, listen to them, and give them what they need.

Say Their Name

Liz Etheridge Sekerke lost her husband, Chuck, in early November 2018 after a lengthy journey with MS. She was still reeling from the loss as Thanksgiving and Christmas came around, and she recalls how horrible the holidays felt. She shared her fractured heart on Facebook: “I have discovered that, although it brings tears and can be emotional, I need to hear people talk about Chuck. His name brings joy to me, and he need not be the elephant in the room where his name is avoided. I need to know that, if you knew him, you remember him. I missed this the most at our Christmas gatherings this year. We need to say our loved one’s name. We need to remember them. We need to laugh and, yes, cry over our memories of them.”

Speak with Empathy

In her 2018 TED Talk, grief expert Nora McInerny warned against advising the grief- stricken to “move on.” She heard that a lot when she lost her husband, Aaron, to brain cancer. “Moving on indicates Aaron’s life and death and love are just moments that I can leave behind me, and I probably should.” Although she remarried and has a happy blended family life, she says she has not moved on and never will. She has moved forward with Aaron because his life, death, and love helped shape the person she is. She speaks of Aaron in the present tense because “the people we love who we’ve lost are still so present to us.” She said, “Grief doesn’t happen in this vacuum. It happens alongside of and mixed in with all of these other emotions.” She further challenged her listeners by noting, “We don’t look at the people around us experiencing life’s joys and wonders and tell them to move on, do we?”

Never Underestimate Simple Gestures

Local chef Hardette Harris lost her father over the summer. When asked what others have done that means the most, Hardette shared, “The sympathy cards I’ve received that included a handwritten message mean so much to me. Heartfelt words are very comforting.” Such a simple gesture makes a difference. Perhaps a note in a holiday card acknowledging the missing person at the table would help a grieving personĀ feel seen and understood. An invitation to your holiday gathering with no pressure attached would be nice, too.

One day, grief may have a place at your holiday table. This year, look for ways to cushion your grieving loved ones’ hurting hearts. If you or someone you love is grieving, consider a local GriefShare group. Broadmoor Baptist Church has a morning and evening group open to anyone who needs extra support. Get more information at