25 Ways to Care Well this Christmas

by Holidays, Wisdom1 comment

I am longing for something beautiful, meaningful and joyous to happen this Christmas season.  Maybe you are, too!  I believe one way to find this beauty and meaning is to focus some of our attention outward to those who are sad, lonely or grieving.  We are surrounded by individuals who need our care.  Often we ignore or avoid these individuals because we do not know what to say or do; so, we do nothing.  That is why we created “25 Ways to Care Well this Christmas.”  We invite you each day, December 1-25, to review a new, practical way to care and DO IT.  You will then discover some of the beauty, the meaning and the joy of Christmas!

When you care for the least of these you care for me.
Matthew 25:40


Click the arrows below to expand and to read more.

Bless the Elderly This Christmas

[expand title=”1. Build a wall of memories and photos for an elderly loved one.”]

By Cindy Terlouw

Build a Wall of Memories.

One year ago after a short hospital stay, we brought our dear mother to a nursing home facility in the town where she was born and raised.  The doctors informed us that she was very fragile due to conditions surrounding congestive heart failure.

After 66 years of marriage and having never spent time away from our father, we knew that this separation would be both difficult and filled with anxiety.

Since family has always been our mother’s primary focus and knowing that her life was coming to a close, we used pictures as a tool for remembering and celebrating her life.

On the wall directly across from her bed, we arranged a large collage of pictures—family trips, weddings, graduations, grandchildren and more.  Our Mom has always loved pictures, so we knew that the pictures would be a source of great joy and comfort.

Every day she comments on a picture that reminds her of a special memory which gives her joy and adds meaning to her life.  It has also given an opportunity for both nursing staff and visitors to begin conversations with our mother about her life.  When her grandchildren come to visit, they add a picture to her wall continuing the meaningful story of her precious life.

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.  Consider building a “Wall of Memories” for your loved one.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast follow this link:
A Wall of Memories


[expand title=”2. Transform a nursing or hospital room for the holidays and bring the Christmas celebration to them.”]

The Christmas holidays are supposed to be happy, fun, joyful and overflowing with bonds of love. However, if your loved one lives in a nursing home, the scene may instead be dull, sad and boring.

One Christmas when my mom was in a nursing home, we filled her room with beauty, happiness and joy.  How?  We brought Christmas music, Christmas cookies, punch, red and green construction paper, scissors (or paper cutter) and glue.

Then, we invited all her grandchildren and great grandchildren to come to the party. Grandchildren stopped in at various times and helped to make a Christmas paper chain. All ages participated. With Christmas music playing in the background and Christmas cookies and punch, suddenly my mom’s room was changed from a dull, sad, depressing place to a place of laughter and joy.

Everyone had fun!  The end product was a very long paper chain which went around and around the room.  There was so much joy and laughter in mom’s room.

Consider brightening a nursing home room, hospital room or home by adding a paper chain of love.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Transforming a Nursing Home This Christmas


[expand title=”3. Prepare to spend time with a loved one with dementia.  Plan to be patient and smile.”]

Holidays are memory days.  But not for people with dementia.

“Do you remember the year the tree fell over…when the cousins stayed for all eight days…when Santa forgot to eat the cookies and the kids cried…”

Holidays, especially the Christmas holiday are a tapestry woven with memories.  So what happens when your mom or dad or loved one has lost those memories and you  want to spend time with them.  How are we to handle the holidays when a loved one has dementia?  For wisdom on this subject I went to www.boomerhighway.com where Beth gives us 4 tips.

Here are some tips to help you, whether you will be with this person for one hour or off and on for several days.

1. Be patient and smile. You will have to draw on the love you have always had for this person to get through the hours.  Remember the special and interesting times you have spent with that person, and hold those in your mind as you visit.  You will have to repeat yourself so you need to be patient.  You will have to clarify things and as you do realize that the clarification might not mean a thing.  But the gentleness of your voice or the kindness of your posture as you lean toward this person explaining, will mean something.  I remember  in my own case, when my friend Marianne had dementia, and it was difficult visiting her until I remembered Jesus words, “When you do it to the least of these you do it unto me.”  So when I was being kind and loving toward Marianne it helped to know that at the same time in some mysterious way I was also caring and loving Jesus.  That thought helped me be patient and kind and yes, I did have a smile.

2. Plan ahead, consider what your loved one can tolerate. What you do during the holidays with your loved one who suffers from dementia depends on the extent of the illness.  Last year we took my mother to our favorite Christmas Eve bistro in her wheelchair.  Never again.  She was unhappy, the place was too noisy and she immediately wanted to go back to her senior living facility.  So weigh your options.  Maybe it’s better to keep your loved one in her comfortable place where she feels safe…  Stay with her for a number of hours, and then go out and celebrate on your own.

3. Bring gifts. Gifts should be tactile or arouse the senses.  Holiday foods and sweets are always a good choice, if your loved one can tolerate them.  Lotions with citrus scents, warm and soft shawls, socks or sweaters are other good ideas, because  the elderly are almost always cold.  Don’t forget a gift for the caregivers who take care of your loved ones.  Click here for a list of gift ideas for the elderly.

4. Create your own memories.  Even though your mother, father or loved one will not remember that you were there bringing gifts and loving them, hold this memory in your own heart.  Know that your acts of love and kindness toward this person are appreciated IN THE MOMENT.  You are making a difference for that person IN THE MOMENT.  And that’s a memory that you can be proud of–you made a difference for someone with dementia.

I remember a professional caregiver told me that it is important to keep visiting a person with dementia even when they cannot respond.  She said it was like going to a wonderful movie that is  heartwarming, encouraging and positive and you walk out and you feel good about yourself and the world. That feeling will linger for several days.  That is what it is like for a person with dementia when you visit, they can feel your kindness and love that generates inside and makes them feel good.  They can’t put those feelings into words for you, but they are there.

So reach out not only at Christmas time, but all through the year to those who have dementia.  You will be blessed and so will they.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
How Do We Handle the Holidays When a Loved One Has Dementia?


[expand title=”4.  Give a gift to someone in a nursing home – ideas include pay a hairdresser to come in, large print books, a fruit basket and a cozy blanket.”]

Elderly people have their own unique needs and wants to consider when deciding on what to give them for Christmas.  They will be delighted to receive a present that truly reflects your love and care, because it is tailored to their specific situation.

My mom lived in a nursing home for 6 ½ years and I often wondered: What gifts to give her at Christmas.  Then Carol Gioia provided me with a list of “Gifts for the Elderly Who Live in Nursing Homes.”

1.  Novelty holiday sweat suits are popular with the elderly who want to be in the holiday spirit.

2. Some nursing homes have a hairdresser.  Pay the hairdresser for several sessions at the hair salon. Then make a gift certificate for your loved one and then also put the dates on her or his calendar.

3. If there is no in-house hairdresser, contracting one to come in every so often and style your loved one’s hair is a wonderful gift.

4. Large print books and audio books.

5. Elderly people feel the cold more, so a cozy lap blanket, afghan, bed jacket or a Snuggie would be welcomed.

6. A fruit basket of their favorite fruit would be enjoyed.

7. DVD’s of classic movies or music from your loved-one’s era will be sure to please.

8. Another thoughtful gift would be to purchase a small pre-decorated table-top tree.

Always check with the administration or activity director of the nursing home to ensure your gift is appropriate.  Elicit their advice.

As always, the best present is your presence—you spending time with the elderly person who lives in a nursing home.

Whatever you decide to do in regard to gifting your elderly loved one for Christmas, don’t confine your thoughtfulness and generosity to just the holiday season.

The greatest gift you can give is to be consistent all year long with visits, phone calls and small thoughtful gestures to convey the message that your special elder is loved and cherished all the time.

Learn more about this author by clicking here Carol Gioia.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Gifts for the Elderly Living in a Nursing Home


[expand title=”5.  Give a gift to an elderly loved one.  One idea is a new board game and a promise to play with them.”]

  • Elderly people feel the cold more, so a cozy lap blanket, afghan, bed jacket, or a Snuggie would be a good gift.
  • Offer to come by and decorate the Christmas tree.  Bring some goodies and Christmas music and make it a party.
  • A new board game and a promise to come by and play with them.  Be sure to follow through on the promise.
  • A fruit or flower/plant-of-the-month would give the person something to look forward to each month.
  • Or how about a promise to visit each month or week?  A very special gift my son, Jeff, gave to his grandma and to me was that he pledged to visit my mom, his grandma, once a month for a year (this involved a 4-hour round trip).  Jeff would take his computer along and show her family pictures. She was so pleased.

It is so true, that the greatest gift you can give an elderly person is to be consistent all year long with visits, phone calls and small thoughtful gestures.  Those continuous gestures tell your special elder that he/she is loved and cherished all the time.

Learn more ideas by clicking here Carol Gioia.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
More Gifts for the Elderly


[expand title=”6.  Help an elderly loved one in your life document and tell their life story.”]

A Treasured Gift for the Elderly

Do you ever wonder what to talk about when you go to visit an elderly aunt, grandfather or parent? If so, check out Telling Life’s Stories on this website.  There you will find approximately 72 questions to ask someone about their life.  Such as:

  • What was your favorite subject in school? Why?
  • What was your first job? Describe.
  • What are some of the special places that you have visited?
  • When did you meet your spouse? What attracted you to him/her?
  • What’s your favorite Bible story? Why?
  • Who was the best president? Who was the worst president?  Why?
  • What was your greatest challenge? How did you meet it?
  • If you had your life to live over again, would you make any changes?

Each time you visit, ask a few new questions. Record the answers.  Eventually you can duplicate and share these stories and memories with other members of the family.  It will be such a treasure for the person you are visiting and the rest of the family.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
A Treasured Gift for the Elderly


[expand title=”7.  Visit a loved one with dementia, even if they won’t remember you did.  The act of kindness will be appreciated in the moment.”]

Why continue to visit a person when they do not respond?

“Even though your mother, father or loved one will not remember that you were there, know that your acts of love and kindness are appreciated IN THE MOMENT.  You are making a difference for that person IN THE MOMENT.” from boomerhighway.org

I remember a professional caregiver told me that it is important to keep visiting a person with dementia even when they cannot respond.  She said it was like going to a wonderful movie that is heartwarming, encouraging and positive and you walk out and you feel good about yourself and the world. That feeling may linger for several days.  That is what it is like for a person with dementia.  When you visit, they can feel your kindness and love.  They can’t put those feelings into words, but they feel the warmth and peace and love . . . . on the inside.

So reach out not only at Christmas time, but all through the year to those who have dementia. You will be blessed, and so will they. For more wisdom on this subject please go to  boomerhighway.org.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Why Visit a Person Who Does Not Respond?


Meaningful Ways for Families to Care Together During the Holidays

[expand title=”8.  Let kids choose how to participate in caregiving. Provide them the options to choose from including making cookies, make a card or play an instrument.”]

A person recently asked, “I’d like caregiving to become a natural part of what my family does together. How can we involve our children in caregiving? How can we especially involve teenagers?” – Sue

It is helpful if parents let it be known that caring for those who are suffering or hurting is just what we do as a Christian family. Caring is a given; however, each family member can choose how he or she wants to participate. So if a neighbor is elderly and confined to her house, how can each member of the family care for her? Some possibilities are:

  1. make cookies or help prepare a meal
  2. play a musical instrument or sing
  3. design a card or draw a picture
  4. volunteer to mow the grass, sweep the sidewalk, etc.
  5. make a prayer shawl 
  6. offer to do errands
  7. put together a PowerPoint of family pictures
  8. learn and present a series of jokes or type them as a handout
  9. wash a car

When teenagers or anyone can use their hobbies, talents, and areas of interests in caregiving, it makes caring for someone easier, more fun and more satisfying.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Teenagers Using Their Talents and Interests in Caregiving


[expand title=”9. Develop a yearly family tradition of decorating cookies to bring to the Hospice home or to shut-ins.”]

Christmas Cookie Fun

Caregiving can be fun.  A yearly tradition in our family is making and decorating Christmas cookies. Even my teenagers have fun decorating the cookies!  When they are finished we all deliver them to the people at the Hospice home, to shut-ins, to children in hospitals, or firemen and police who are on duty Christmas Eve.

I believe that if we make caregiving a fun family time and also something that we do often, we will be establishing a habit in our children’s lives. Then, when they have families of their own there is a good chance they will also make caregiving a part of their family life.

Following are 2 of the cookie recipes we use:

Pretzel Kisses
Ingredients:  Pretzel Waffle Squares, Hershey Kisses and M&Ms
(1) Place the pretzel squares on a baking sheet, and top each one with a Hershey Kiss, (2) Bake for 3 minutes in a 200 degree oven.  (3) Press an M&M into the center of each Hershey Kiss.  Refrigerate for approximately 14-20 minutes.

Christmas Cookie Cut-Outs:
I usually make and bake the cut-out cookies ahead of time.  Then when the children arrive, they can focus on the decorating.  I have available lots of various sprinkles, and melt various colors of Candy Wafers (from Hobby Lobby or Michaels).

Recipe:  Karen’s Cut-Outs (Use an electric mixer)
1 Cup of butter -cream butter, add sugar, then other ingredients
¾ Cup sugar
1 Egg
3 Cups of Flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla & ½ teaspoon almond extract

Roll out and cut-out with Christmas cookie cutters.
Put on an ungreased cookie sheet. (Use parchment paper for easy clean-up.)
Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown.

Then let the fun begin!

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
A Fun and Caring Habit


[expand title=”10.  Create “Caring Kits” together for disaster or needy areas around the world.”]

As a part of our family’s Christmas Eve rituals we put together Church World Service kits for disaster or needy areas in the world.  One year we put together 300 school kits.  It was fun and even the young grandkids got involved.  We set up an assembly line and each person filled the kit with an item: pencils, crayons, paper, eraser, etc.

We all felt good inside when we saw this huge mountain of 300 kits which would give children somewhere in the world the items they needed for school.

One year we made the collecting of the items for the kits into a contest.  We divided the family into 3 groups.  Each group had a list of items which they needed to find and buy, and the first team back with a completed list won a prize.

For information on the various kits:  School Kits, Baby Care Kits, Hygiene Kits and Emergency Clean-Up Kits go to Church World Service: Kits Program.  On this website you will receive all the information you need to make these service kits.  A kit project could be done anytime during the year–not just at Christmas–because they are always needed.

Also, here is a helpful document! Just click the link below:
Church World Service: Kits Program PDF

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Caring Kits


[expand title=”11.  Prepare a meal with the family and deliver it together to someone who is having a difficult time.”]

A fun way to involve children in caregiving is by including them when you are preparing meals to give to those who are going through a difficult time.  There is a wonderful website called, “Take Them A Meal (takethemameal.com) In a post on that website, Adina Bailey, gives ideas on how to include your child in meal taking:

1. Ask your child to color/draw a picture or make a homemade card for the meal recipient. These cute birds made from bottle caps could tweet, “Get Well Soon!”

2. Print out the menu and let your child decorate it with stickers, markers, etc.

3. Let your child select the dessert and make it together. Cookies are a great selection because you can make them on the day prior to your scheduled meal.

4. Ask your child to help you label the packaged meal items.

5.  Decorate a brown shopping bag with construction paper hearts or flowers and deliver the meal items in the cheerful bag.

6. Make fun foods that will bring a smile to your helper and recipient. Here are two of our favorites: “Bacon and Eggs” and “Sealed with a Pretzel Kiss

7. Invite your child to help you deliver the meal.  Most people eagerly welcome a child and the child would be part of the gift.

Note: Remember your attitude in the meal preparation and in the delivery is being observed by your child.  Remember to model the kind of caregiver you want your child to be now and in the future.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Include Children in Meal Taking


[expand title=”12.  Carol with your family at a nursing home or in the neighborhood.”]

Doesn’t this sound like fun?

Chris and his family (4 children ages 6,4,2,+ a newborn) rented a small bus.  Filled it with grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends, and they went Christmas caroling.

Where did you go?  To the Warm Friend in Holland, MI (the Warm Friend is a Retirement Home for elderly individuals and couples.)

What were the individual responses to the experience? After we finished singing, a number of the residents thanked us, and interacted with our children. The kids loved the model train that was set up in the common room, and we ended up spending some additional time watching it do loops around the track and talking with residents.

Any other comments about the experience? The guests had the biggest smiles on their faces and seemed genuinely grateful that we were there. And this is in spite of the fact that we were less like a choir, and more like a boisterous, musical rabble. They loved to see the little children bundled up in their winter garb and joining in the carols.

It sounds like so much fun, and Chris and his family are considering making this a family tradition.

I hope that this inspires some of you to find ways to bring joy to other people this Christmas.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
A School Bus and Musical Rabble


[expand title=”13.  Give a gift in which you invest your time, talent or energy rather than money.”]

Best Gifts for Christmas (or anytime)

The African boy listened carefully as the teacher explained why it is that Christians give presents to each other on Christmas Day.  “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship and love for each other,” she said.

Then Christmas Day came, the boy brought the teacher a sea shell of lustrous beauty.  “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.

The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found.  When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was speechless.

“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”  His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”  Gerald Horton Bath 

Emerson once said, “The best gift is a portion of thyself.”  Meaningful gifts are gifts in which you invest your time, talent and energy rather than money.  For examples:  search “Alternative Gifts.”  Or go to the website of Ginger Jurries and download her book, Reclaiming Christmas. 

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
The Best Gifts to Give


[expand title=”14.  Involve children in the true meaning of Christmas by giving them the gift of giving.”]

One way we can model Christian Caregiving at Christmas time is a tradition which we have done in our family for 20 years: Early in Advent, we send each child and grandchild the following letter:

Merry Christmas: As you know, one of our Christmas traditions each year is that we give each family member $100 to be used to improve the quality of life for others who are not as fortunate as we are. Please select a gift(s) and share some information about the gift when we gather on Christmas.  Include:  What is the gift?  Who will receive the gift?  Why is this gift important to the ones receiving it? Some possibilities:

We hope that you feel the joy which comes as a result of giving to others, and also know that you have honored Christ on His birthday by caring for those who are suffering. Love, Grandpa and Grandma

On Christmas, each person describes the gift which he or she has chosen, and how the gift will help to improve someone’s life. On a large world map, the person indicates with a star sticker where her or his gift is going. He or she then lights a small votive candle which reminds us that we are called to be “lights” in God’s world. For other ideas on how to model the true meaning of Christmas with our families, see Alternative Gifts.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
How Can We Model the True Meaning of Christmas With our Families


[expand title=”15.  Schedule a “silent night” on your calendar and let that be your gift to the Lord Jesus.”]

by:  Ginger Jurries

Dr. David Jeremiah suggests a radical idea for enhancing your Advent devotional time:

“In planning for Christmas this year, schedule a ‘silent night’ into your calendar:

  • Repeat Samuel’s prayer:  ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’ or David’s prayer: ‘Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.’ (1 Samuel 3:9; Psalm 119:18).
  • You might read through the Christmas passages in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke or through the book of Colossians, listing all the attributes that describe Christ.  List any Bible verses you would like to memorize.
  • Let this ‘silent night’ be your Christmas gift to the Lord Jesus, something that costs something in time and attention, but will end up giving you a fresh heart where all is calm and all is bright.”  Dr. David Jeremiah

Reclaiming Christmas, p 56 by Ginger Jurries

Additional ideas:

  • If it is a beautiful night, go outside and enjoy the stars and the quiet.  If you wish you might repeat silently in your heart, Samuel’s prayer.
  • Listen to the music and words of the song, “Silent Night.”

Silent Night! Holy Night!

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright, Round yon Virgin Mother and Child! Holy Infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace! Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight! Glories stream from Heaven afar, Heavenly Hosts sing Alleluia! Christ, the Savior, is born! Christ, the Savior, is born!

Silent night! Holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth! Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!

Silent Night, Holy Night Here at last, healing light From the heavenly kingdom sent, Abundant grace for our intent. Jesus, salvation for all. Jesus, salvation for all.

Silent Night! Holy Night” Sleeps the world in peace tonight. God sends his Son to earth below A Child from whom all blessings flow Jesus, embraces mankind. Jesus, embraces mankind.

Silent Night, Holy Night Mindful of mankind’s plight The Lord in Heav’n on high decreed From earthly woes we would be freed Jesus, God’s promise for peace. Jesus, God’s promise for peace.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Have a Silent Night


Caring for Those Who Are Grieving and Lonely This Christmas

[expand title=”16.  Make space for the unexpected even when you are busy and overbooked.”]

From Terry Hershey in The Power of Pause

A friend told me about the nativity play at her parish.  A little girl played the role of the innkeeper.  Mary and Joseph (Joseph resplendent in his The Power of Pause dad’s bathrobe) knocked on the door in the inn and asked, “Is there any room in your inn?”

The innkeeper looked at Mary and Joseph, and then looked out at the pastor.  She looked again at Mary and Joseph, and then looked out at the pew where her parents sat.  She looked again at Mary and Joseph, and said, “Oh well, come on in for a drink.”

Now that’s the spirit.  That’s the Christmas spirit.  “Come on in.”  That little girl wasn’t just saying lines, she was feeling it.  She had compassion and she couldn’t stand to slam the door shut in Mary and Joseph’s faces.  She made space for them even though she was overbooked.

Can we make space in our lives for those who are powerless, overwhelmed, lonely, and hurting?

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Come On In


[expand title=”17.  Help those who have lost a loved one this season by remembering and sharing memories of the person who was lost.”]

When there is a death in a family, Christmas can be so painful because everyone else seems so happy.  One mother says, “Watching their joy is bad enough, but the real pain is when our child’s name is not even mentioned; when no one recalls Christmases past, when my son was there with them, or when no one says how much our son is missed at Christmas.”

People want to know that their loved one who has died is still remembered!  Please say, “I remember” then share a special memory.

Ann Anderson shares:

One of the most significant gestures of caring came from our 3 ½ year old grandson, Jacob.  One day, after my husband John had died, Jacob asked me if I was still sad.

Then he said, “Grandpa John must be really sad not to be able to talk to you.”

And during the first Christmas season after John’s death, Jacob asked, “Who makes the Baby Jesus cake in heaven?”  Then a few seconds later, he answered his own question:  “I know.  Grandpa John is baking the baby Jesus’s cake.”

Ann says, “His comments meant so much to me because (1) he missed Grandpa John also, and (2) his questions invited me to think about and talk about John.

So, this Christmas, tell someone who is grieving, “I remember” and then tell a story about the deceased or why you valued the person.  You will be giving the grieving person a treasured Christmas present.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
I Remember


[expand title=”18.  Start a tradition in the memory of a person who passed away.”]

By Sarah Gill-Northcutt

It had been a year since my 18 month-old granddaughter Katie died of a birth defect, and I could still feel the grief.  “Maybe putting up Christmas decorations will make you feel better,” my husband said, handing me the box where we kept the ornament.

“Christmas won’t be the same without Katie,” I said.  I opened the box.  There on top of a pile of tinsel was Katie’s stocking.  I hadn’t thought about what to do with it.  I couldn’t leave it off the mantel.  It would be as if she’d never been part of the family.  But I couldn’t leave it hanging empty either.  What should I do?

On Christmas Day, I found the answer.  I announced.  “I’d like to start a tradition in Katie’s memory.”  I passed around Katie’s stocking, which I’d filled with slips of paper, one for each member of the family.  On each slip was an assignment, to be completed in Katie’s honor:  plant a tree, buy school supplies for an underprivileged kid, donate a book to the library.  Now, every Christmas, Katie’s stocking turns out to be the best gift of all.

From Guideposts, “Pass It On,” December 2004

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Pass It On


[expand title=”19.  Help the grieving confine and assign a time to air their feelings and to serve others.”]

Lynda Elliott’s father died at noon on Christmas day when she was 20 years old.

I know that many people are experiencing loss, especially at this time of year.  For example, you may have been divorced since the last Christmas, or one of your sons or daughters may be at war, or a friendship may have been broken over the last year. Perhaps health problems have robbed you of many activities that were common to your life before this year, or someone you love may have died.

Grief is an experience that is common to everyone. Nobody who has ever lived on this earth has been able to avoid it, but it often comes to us when we least expect it.

One of Lynda’s tips for grieving during the holidays is:  to confine and assign time to your feelings.

We don’t need to ignore our feelings altogether, but it’s helpful to deliberately make a time and place for them.

Lynda says, “I began to set aside a period of time to think about my father. Sometimes I wrote about him in a journal. Other times I talked about him to my children. Sometimes I lit a Christmas candle and gave thanks for him. I also looked through a scrapbook of my childhood. However, I placed a time limit on my grief and nostalgia.

I had to exercise my will to do this, making a decision to invest most of my energy into the family members who were still with me, serving friends and strangers who had needs. I invested my energy more and more into serving than grieving, and creating new memories, rather than looking back.”

Try Lynda’s advice to set a time and place to grieve –maybe each day. Then try to invest your energy in serving rather than grieving, and in creating new memories.

For more wisdom on grief during the holidays, see the following:
Pass it On
Won’t Be Home for the Holidays
Handling the Holidays When Grief is a Visitor

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
A Time to Grieve and A Time to Serve


[expand title=”20.  Go to dinner and a movie with a lonely person in your life and try not to cancel.”]

Two are better than one, for if one falls down, the other will help him up.  But pity the person who falls and has no one to help him up.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Mother Teresa says, “Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”  What do you do when a friend tells you they are lonely?  Do you shrug them off?  Roll your eyes?

If you want to support a lonely friend, consider the following recommendations from those who’ve been there:

Dinner and a Movie
Some people are so debilitated by loneliness that they can hardly discuss it (or anything else). Inviting a friend to a concert or movie will give you something to talk about over dinner.

Try Not to Cancel
Try not to reschedule plans or cancel at the last minute.  Lonely people tend to see social engagements as life buoys in a long week.  Canceling can leave them feeling unmoored.

Check In
Leave a message.  A voicemail or e-mail can make someone feel they haven’t been forgotten.

If you are blessed with friendships and/or positive relationships with family members, first of all count your blessings.  Then, pass that blessing on to people who need it.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
How to Help a Lonely Person


[expand title=”21.  What to say to a grieving friend this Christmas: “I am thinking of you” and “I’m sending you love during this difficult time.””]

From:  Liv Lane

What Can I Say To A Grieving Friend This Christmas Season?  Here are some expressions that have comforted my family over the past year and some I’ve learned from friends who have experienced great loss, too…

I am thinking of you.
Sounds so simple, but it means so much to know someone out there is aware you are in pain, and thinking good thoughts about you.

What you’re going through totally sucks.
Plain and simple, the journey through grief is shitty. It feels good to have others validate this fact and acknowledge you’re hurting – in a real and gritty way.

I’m sending you love during this difficult time.
When it seems heartfelt, this is a huge comfort. Don’t worry that you might not know a person well enough to say it. I have received notes and tweets from people I barely know sending their love. Every time, it’s felt like a warm blanket of human kindness.

May peace present itself more and more with every day. 
I’ve heard people say “may you find peace,” but this small shift in language touched my heart when a friend said it. It allows me to just sit back and trust that, in time, peace will find me.

I really want to support you this season. 
People in grief usually have no clue how you can help them, so you’ll need to offer some suggestions. A few holiday possibilities: decorate the Christmas tree, bake cookies together, bring coffee over, help to wrap presents or address holiday cards, go shopping together, clean the house, babysit the kids, accompany your friend to a holiday gathering, shovel the driveway. Do not be offended if your friend turns down every offer you make; simply knowing you’re willing and able to help might be enough for the time being.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
What to Say to a Grieving Friend this Christmas Part 1


[expand title=”22.  More ideas for what to say to a grieving friend this Christmas: “I don’t expect a call back” and “You can cry with me anytime.””]

By  Liv Lane

What Can I Say To A Grieving Friend This Christmas Season?  Here are some expressions that have comforted my family over the past year and some I’ve learned from friends who have experienced great loss, too…

I don’t expect a call back. 
For over a week after my dad died, a dear friend called me every day and just left a message to say she loved me and was thinking of me. At the end of each message, she’d remind me that she didn’t expect a call back. She knew that when I had the energy to call, I would. When I eventually called her back, I felt no guilt. Such a gift!

You can cry with me anytime. 
Grief comes in waves and sometimes catches you off guard. You only want to spend time with people who accept you and support you as you are – even if you’re happy one minute and sobbing the next.

Can I share a favorite memory of __________?  
Though it may be emotional, sharing stories of the person who passed {and saying their name out loud!} can be really therapeutic for those left behind. Share how he or she impacted your life or bring up stories you remember your friend sharing about their relationship.

There is no “right” way to grieve. 
Remind your bereaved friend {and yourself} that everyone deals with grief differently. There are no rules or expectations. During the holidays, some people find it impossible to carry on with family traditions, while others find comfort in them.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
What to Say to a Grieving Friend this Christmas Part 2


[expand title=”23. Create a “Promising Box” for a friend or loved one who is dying.  Have loved ones write a promise of how they will care for their family in the future and compile them in a decorative box for them to read.”]

Kim Smith was a precious friend to many local users of TakeThemAMeal.com. Sadly, Kim died in 2012 from breast cancer. A friend from Kim’s church, Bonnie Carr, created a loving way for friends and family members to show their care to Kim before she died. Those of us at TakeThemAMeal.com adored this idea from the first time Bonnie shared it with us, and we want to share it with you.

When Kim was dying from breast cancer, a friend from Kim’s church, Bonnie Carr, created a loving way for friends and family members to show their care to Kim before she died.  She created a “Promising Box” for Kim.

How do you create a “Promising Box”?

When your friend still has life to live, but you know her days on earth are drawing to a close, it’s a struggle to know how to say good bye. One meaningful gift you can offer your friend is that you will stay connected to her family and remind them of her love. In Kim’s case, she was saying goodbye not only to her precious husband, but two sweet boys, and she had a strong desire for her family to always know HER LOVE for them.

To create a Promising Box for your friend, invite all the people who love your friend to send you a written “promise” of how they will care for her family at a future date. Compile the letters you receive in a decorative box to give them to your friend. Kim’s family, friends and loved ones wrote letters expressing how they would care for her family in the coming years. Calvin read the messages to Kim in the weeks before she died and the Promising Box continues to be a treasure for their family.

What are the Promises included in the letters?

The promises are things you can do to keep your friend’s love for her family alive as the years pass. In writing, you can promise to be part of a future moment in the life of your friend’s family. Below are some examples of promises that can be made:

  • Promise that you will give her children a special key ring from her when they first learn to drive.
  • Promise to pray for the children on the first day of school each year.
  • Promise that you will buy a corsage for each child when they have their first formal date.
  • Promise to take your friend’s husband his favorite home cooked meal on his birthday.
  • Promise to give a handmade blanket to each grandchild.

Your memories of meaningful moments with your friend will certainly give you “promise” ideas, so her love can be part of future moments in the life of her family. Even with faith, saying goodbye to our friends and loved ones who are terminally ill is difficult. It’s even harder for our ill friends to know they are slowly saying good bye to a family they deeply love. Compiling letters from family and friends that are full of promises is a precious gift that gives present comfort to your friend and future comfort to her family.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Kim’s Promising Box


[expand title=”24. Share memories of the loved one who’s missing at a celebration.”]

Christmas is an especially difficult holiday when there is an empty chair at the table following the death of a loved one.  The first Christmas after my lovely mother died there was definitely the sadness of an empty chair.  So we began our celebration by sharing stories about mom/grandma.  I ask each person, if they wished, to share a fun memory or an attribute which they admired about mom/grandma.  There was much laughter and love and joy around the table.  It felt for a few minutes that she was in our midst.

Also to remember grandma, I gave each family member, including the young grandchildren, a pretty delicate cross with mom’s name, birthdate, and death- date engraved on it. I encouraged all the family to hang the cross on the tree each Christmas and to remember Grandma.

Now ten years later, I still see the cross on my tree and smile and remember and thank God for my lovely greatly loved mom.

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Shared Memories


[expand title=”25.  Reflect on the light that shines in the darkness by reading or listening to the lyrics of “Oh Holy Night””]

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.  (John 1:5)

 Oh Holy Night

Merry Christmas.

My wish for you (and me) is that at some point today, we will stop and be quiet.

Maybe it will be tonight when the festivities of the day have ended.  As Quinn Caldwell suggests:

 “Wrap up warm and comfy, get a drink of something good, turn off all the lights, put a chair up to a window, and look,”

And listen deeply to the words of the Christmas carol:  “Oh Holy Night,”

“O Holy Night” –Josh Groban

or silently read the words, and think about God’s message and gift to us.

Merry Christmas, Karen

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

To listen to the 1 minute podcast click the link below
Oh Holy Night



Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder is the founder of the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband Larry.

1 Comment

  1. Loretta

    What wonderful ways to give gifts of love and doesn’t cost anything but time and a little planning. It’s a win win!!!!!!!

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