Inviting Grief to the Table: Holiday Host Etiquette

Spending holidays with friends and family while grieving is hard. No one is really comfortable-neither the bereaved nor those hosting them.

But there are ways to welcome grief to your table, to pave the way for the broken and bruised to join you, if they are able.

Here’s something that’s been going around social media circles this holiday season and offers advice on hosting the bereaved this Christmas.

Holiday Host Etiquette by Sarah Nannen

(Emphasis and paragraphs added)

“If you’re inviting someone to your home and they’re grieving, be sure you’re inviting their grief to attend, too. It will be there, anyway.

Don’t invite someone with the goal of cheering them up for the holidays. Don’t expect them to put on a happy face in your home. Don’t demand they fake it til they make it or do something they don’t want to do, either.

Invite them with the loving intention of offering cheer and companionship and unconditional care during the holidays. To do this, you will need to honor and be responsive to their needs and emotions.

You can do this by privately acknowledging their grief when you make the invitation: ‘I know this season is extra hard and you’re heart is hurting. You and your grief are welcome in our home. Come as you are, we’d be honored to have you with us.’

It’s also incredibly loving to honor the reality that it’s often hard for grieving folks to know what they will want, need, be up for, or able to tolerate at the holidays.

Giving them an invite without the need for commitment and permission to change their mind is extra loving: ‘You don’t have to decide right now. If it feels good to be with us, we will have plenty of food and love for you-just show up! I’ll check in again the day before to see if you’re feeling up to coming over and if there’s anything you’d like me to know about how we can support you.’

Your grieving friends and fam need attentive care and responsiveness at the holidays, not plans to keep them busy, distracted, and happy. If they’re laughing, laugh with them. If they’re weeping, ask if they’d like your company or your help finding a quiet place to snuggle up alone for awhile.

If they’re laughing while weeping, and this is more common than you’d think, stay with them – this is a precious moment of the human experience that is truly sacred.

We don’t need to protect ourselves or each other from grief at the holidays. In fact, the more we embrace grief as an honored holiday guest, the more healthy, happy, and whole our holidays will be.”

In solidarity, Sarah Nannen

The truth is that loss and sorrow will visit every life eventually.

We do no one a favor by pretending it doesn’t exist, least of all ourselves.

I honestly believe that when we welcome the happy, the hope-filled AND the hopeless to our table we are most human.

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

2 thoughts on “Inviting Grief to the Table: Holiday Host Etiquette”

  1. This will be my first Christmas without my son. I’m really having a hard time. This story was very encouraging.

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    1. I’m so very sorry for your pain and loss. Praying you feel the Lord’s loving arms around you and that He greets you every day with grace and strength to hold onto hope. ❤

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