words by: Ferree Hardy
Can you imagine Christmas without kindness? For those who face their first Christmas alone, some days can be very challenging and seemingly unkind. Many events, sights, sounds and fragrances can overwhelm them with floods of sadness and loneliness. Even the first snowfall may cause tears to fall.
That’s the nature of grief. It comes in waves. God knows this. He understands.
As I’ve been thinking about the first Christmas so many eons ago, this question occurred to me as I imagined the Newborn’s cry—was this the first time God cried?
Of course, we don’t know. What I do know is that Jesus lived among humanity, and grew up to be called The Man of Sorrows. He was acquainted with grief. No one can say He’s not able to sympathize with our weaknesses. From the start of His ministry He said, “Blessed are they who mourn…” (Matthew 5). As a man, Jesus knew sorrow; as God, He offers the solution—His presence with us. His special Christmas name, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” It follows that we should be present with each other for the comfort and the celebration of our Savior’s birthday.
Everyone needs comfort this Christmas. For some, it would be the best gift of all. Do you know someone who might be alone? Someone you could comfort with your presence and kindness?
What about widowed people? They stand in plain sight, but many feel invisible. Do you see them?
Here are a few ways to include them this Christmas:
- Pray for them. We’ll talk about this in a bit.
- Your presence can be the best present of all. You could visit them, but also know that being invited to join you means a lot. And please stay in touch with notes, phone calls and a Christmas card. Widows and widowers need all the unconditional friendships they can get.
- If you’d like to provide a gift, here are some practical suggestions:
- Stamps, envelopes and writing paper.
- Gift cards or cash.
- A gift card to a restaurant or coffee shop they like.
- Pre-paid transportation. Have the driver issue a gift certificate or voucher.
- A Christmas tree, if one is wanted this year. Take the family out to get it when you get yours. Help set it up too.
- Needed help like snow plowing, roof repairs and home maintenance. In the spring and summer provide lawn mowing, or garden tilling.
- Babysitting might be a huge help. Now that the spouse is gone they might never get a break or any time to themselves.
- If appropriate, buy them a cellphone and perhaps even pay for the monthly service. It could be a life saver.
- Begin now to think about planning a Valentine Banquet for all the widowed in your community. It’s a tough day for most.
For the children of widows and widowers, similar things could apply:
- Gift cards for fast food, ice cream shops, or other treats.
- Grandparents might open a savings account in the grandchild’s name and show them how to use it. Or, take them along on a vacation or a special event.
- Spend time with the children and give them opportunity to help you. Let them learn and practice some of the skills you have that their deceased parent would have normally showed them. But do so because you genuinely enjoy the child’s company, don’t do it out of pity; be sensitive to their recollections, and understand that children do not grieve as you would.
- Gifts like family games, toys, bicycles, sports or hunting equipment might be appropriate. Several families could purchase something together.
Widows and widowers may also provide the comfort of Christmas kindness to themselves or others.
Don’t forget about yourself. Although the idea might seem selfish at first, (which it did to me when I was a widow), it’s really not. Remember this: You are your own best friend now, so you’re allowed to give yourself a gift.
When I suggested this to some widows, one of them laughed and told me this: “I can now thank you for that new little appliance I’m going to buy. I know it will make mealtime easier and healthier for me — and anything that makes living alone easier and healthier is a good thing.” So try some of the following, but you don’t have to thank me. Thank yourself! You are pretty special!
- Go out for dinner, or order carry out and take it home with you.
- Buy some fresh flowers or house plants. Or cut small pine branches to put in a vase as a fragrant centerpiece.
- Invite people over. Or not. Maybe you’d like some time to yourself. We all need that sometimes. But if you want people over, ask them. They’ll never know you’d like some company if you don’t ask.
- Plan ahead to give yourself something to look forward to. Attend a regional get-together or conference hosted by your church or district order. Start planning now to attend the “Widow’s Journey” retreat on March 4-6, 2022 at Sandy Cove Ministries in North East, MD. You’ll have a built-in friend there because I will be one of the speakers! For more information, see www.sandycove.org and look up “Widow’s Journey.” Or call 800.234.2683 for rates and information.
- Give to others. Gifts don’t have to be expensive. Time is valuable too. Take time to send Christmas cards if you’re up to it.
Please let me reiterate that especially if you are widowed, being kind to yourself is very important. A widow friend once told me how she grew from this important lesson:
I spent the first year at home alone on Christmas Day. Not at all a good idea. I realized then that I had to make plans on my own.
The next Christmas I went away with a bus tour. Much better! Lots of festive activities among friendly people. A beautiful setting. Special meals. Even an informal “Carol Sing.” New friends. New experiences. And for a person like me, who had very little energy, all the planning and preparing and decorating was done by others.
Now I find it literally true that God’s mercies are new every morning…In spite of bereavement, cancer, heart problems, loss of work and income, loss of energy, and side effects of chemo….He daily loads me with blessings.
The comfort of being with people worked its kindness on her. No wonder God chose to redeem us through our Savior’s birth, life with us, and the cross. He knew we needed to have Him with us!
Finally, and most importantly, pray. As you pray for your family, friends, and our world, please remember widows, widowers, and their children. Here’s my prayer for them and for you.
As I consider the needs of widows and widowers this Christmas, I pray for them your promise, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” May they experience this comfort. Fill their hearts with Your presence. Fill their lives with the kindness of people. Fill their deeds with kindness towards both themselves and others.
Renew and revive our experience of the name “Emmanuel.” For when we know that You are with us, we know that we can make it through our struggles. When our own strength and hope are gone, the comfort of knowing “God is with us,” and the kindness we share with each other, are what matter most.
Grant us all the comfort of kindness this Christmas, and please bless each person reading this with a sacred and peaceful new year.
Ferree Hardy has helped thousands of widows through her book, “Postcards from the Widows’ Path,” small groups, speaking, and personal coaching, but touching one life at a time is what matters most to her. She holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute, and was a pastor’s wife in Ohio for over twenty years before her first husband died. She’s happily remarried now, and her readers know that moving seems to have become a hobby for her. But she also enjoys backyard chickens, aims to read fifty books a year, and loves to bake. Learn more by visiting her blog.