When a child has died, the holidays are a very difficult, stressful time for the family. While others are enjoying the festive atmosphere, bereaved families are faced with the specter of an empty chair at the holiday dinner, and the dilemma of whether to hang their missing child's stocking. Here are eight gifts from an expert, a bereaved parent herself, that family and friends can give to help grieving families survive the holidays.

  1. The Gift of Remembrance -- When you send a card or talk with the family, remember the child by name. While you might think this would bring pain to the family, there is more pain when it appears the child has been forgotten.
  2. The Gift of Understanding -- Realize things will be different this holiday season than before the child died. Tasks which were routinely completed in the past may now go undone.
  3. The Gift of Self -- Help the bereaved with some of those "routine" things that need to be done such as shopping and preparing meals. Bring some holiday goodies.
  4. The Gift of a Memorial Donation -- Make a donation in remembrance of the child to a favorite charity that the family may find important in their lives.
  5. The Gift of Hope -- Make them aware of a local self-help bereavement organization whether it be The Compassionate Friends or another group where the members have gone through a similar loss and are ready to help families that are grieving.
  6. The Gift of Kindness -- If there are children in the household, offer to take them shopping for whatever holiday presents they may wish to purchase. The hustle and bustle of the stores with holiday music blaring can be overwhelming to bereaved parents.
  7. The Gift of Time -- Offer to drive the family to a remembrance service, whether it be through a Compassionate Friends chapter, another bereavement group, hospital, funeral home, or church. Your presence will show that you truly care.
  8. The Gift of Love -- Let them know that, even though the family feels very alone, there are others who care deeply about them and will truly be there to provide support along the way.
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