My love language is certainly gift giving; I find much joy in receiving a simple well intentioned gift from a loved one, and I thrill in thinking up what sorts of gifts to give someone for any occasion.
Naturally, it meant a great deal to receive meaningful gifts our first Christmas without our daughter Heidi. Since she was born in November and we had anticipated sharing those nostalgic winter holidays with her, we barely made it through the season. But many friends, and others we don’t even know, reached out to us with presents for our pain.
We’ve decided to use Heidi’s stocking to fill each Christmas with gifts for those we know are suffering. Since we’re in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas, here’s a list of twelve gift ideas for the grieving:
- I received a crocheted purple prayer shawl, which I loved curling up with while reading and contemplating on those dark somber winter days.
- Obviously I love to read and a childhood friend saw that I was pinning many books about suffering on Pinterest (see here: Books), so she sent me a Barnes & Noble gift card. I was truly thrilled! I used it to buy the classic literary piece Heidi penned by Johanna Spyri.
- Many gifted us restaurant cards so that we wouldn’t have to cook and could go out for a nice evening. It’s strange, we didn’t want to go out and do anything but a gift such as that encouraged us to be out of the house and to focus on each other.
- A ladies Bible study group made a collection of small items, such as candles and snacks and toiletries, attaching applicable scripture verses to them; there were a bunch of these in a big bag and we read/opened one every day. That was a great gift idea, because we were reading the Living Word and being reminded that Christ gives graciously, even in our suffering.
- I’m not a coffee addict, but I thrive off the ambiance of coffee shops for journaling and creative brainstorming. A couple friends sent me Starbucks cards so that I could get away for a little luxury.
- Honestly, one of our favorite gifts was the gift of time. We so appreciated nearby friends who invited us into their home to watch a movie, converse around their dining table, make a craft project, or share a meal. Those were precious times when we felt a little like life rather than death.
- People we didn’t even know brought us homemade meals, which was a HUGE blessing. When you’re in the depths of grief you don’t want to eat, but you do need to eat. We would rather have wasted away to nothing than have eaten comfort foods, but when we had the strength there were nutritious things in our freezer, fridge and cupboards to choose from.
- My mom gave me a sweet fuzzy owl tree ornament in memory of Heidi since I’d decorated her nursery with wood creatures and plushy owls.
- One of my favorite favorites (it seems strange to use that much emphasis in the context of the worst season of my life) was the invitation to spend a weekend at a lake house. My dear friend drove me there and stayed with me though we didn’t interact much; the getaway was meant to be healing for me. I read, I journaled, I wept, I sobbed, I stared, I slept, I prayed. It was very good for me and therefore my favorite gift during that time.
- Here’s a gift idea I have that I’m using for a suffering family this year. I don’t know the folks I’m giving to very well, but I’ve surmised a few of their interests based on pictures and casual texting. Sometimes picking for men who are grieving a loss can be difficult, but I’ve found from my own experience that gifts for the simple pleasures in life are some of the best. That might be cigars, beer, movie tickets, strong coffee beans, a winter beanie. Any of those suit men well when they might not buy it for themselves, especially while enduring hardship.
- Of course there’s always books. Often well meaning people offer words from authors when they themselves have none. From my perspective it’s appropriate and needed, even if the grieving individual isn’t initially ready to process deeper thoughts. A book can sit on the shelf for years and one day be dusted off and cherished. Here are a few we’ve been given and liked: Hope for Hurting Hearts by Greg Laurie, A Symphony in the Dark by Barbara Rainey, Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur, God Will Carry You Through by Max Lucado, Holding Onto Hope by Nancy Guthrie.
- Last but not least, if your suffering friend has pets it really helps to give an additional gift for their furry companion; we had two dogs at the time, so when we didn’t have the energy to get out of bed in the morning to play it was nice for them to have bones or new chew gizmos. AND that also can be said of children of grieving parents; typically kids don’t understand all that’s going on so new toys to keep them entertained while parents attend counseling and such is very helpful.
In my heart I know my Heidi girl is happy and well. She lives for the King of Kings who has blessed us with many good gifts. I love to give because I know she loves the Giver of Life and that draws me closer to her and to Him. May you be blessed and bless others this season of giving.