As many families gather tomorrow for festive holiday dinners and gift-giving, some will face the somber reality of living without a dear loved one.

When Sara Crump’s mother died earlier this month following a lengthy illness, she planned two funerals — one in Baton Rouge and another in New York, where her family once lived.

Carrying out her mother’s wishes, Crump requested that everyone wear bold colors — rather than black — in celebration of her mother Genevieve’s warm, encouraging spirit, unwavering faith and love for people.

“She wanted me to wear orange, and I did,” Crump said.

The mother of three also dressed her children in festive colors, fulfilling her mom’s desire to make the service a celebration of life.

“There are lots of laughs between the tears,” said Crump, who cherishes thoughts about her mother spending time with her children at the park, babysitting and helping her with pickups from school and daycare.

Though not having her mother this holiday is difficult, Crump said, she has made a resolve.

“During the holiday season, people will suffer with grief and depression after losing someone they love. We cannot isolate ourselves and be alone,” she said. “We have to stay around people who we can relate to, share memories with and laugh.”

The holidays are a challenging time for families experiencing loss, said Kathy Vilas, CEO of the Grief Recovery Center.

“For people who lose someone this time of year, it’s going to be like a fog,” Vilas said.

The key is staying close to family and just being quiet at times, she said.

Those grieving might even have to initiate conversations with friends or family who don’t know how to express their sympathy, she said.

“Grieving is lonely because others may not be grieving, and they don’t want to feel sad and the griever does not want to create sadness for others,” Vilas said.

During those sensitive times, family and friends should reach out and suggest going for coffee or offering others help.

You can also help by giving space to grieve to a person who has lost a loved one. “For some, it’s too painful … physically, emotionally and sometimes it can be spiritually draining. You have to let them work through it,” Vilas said.

It’s also important to be mindful of what we talk about. A person grieving may not be as interested in the weather or that the Saints lost.

Losing a loved one can put a person through “painful growth,” Vilas said. “They become more aware of the more important things in life.”

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.