Grief and Loss in the Holiday Season
As the Thanksgiving approaches, we begin the most wonderful—and stressful—time of the year (and no, I’m not talking about Christmas shopping): the Holiday Season. Lots of people love to look forward to this time; we get to celebrate and indulge in food, presents, and parties. We get to kick off our shoes and enjoy all of the good things that are happening in our lives.
But this is not the case for everyone. For some of us, this can be the most difficult time of the year. We look across the table, and her face is not there. We sing Silent Night, and his voice is nowhere to be heard. The rituals and traditions of the season that are usually a joy can become somber and challenging when we’re dealing with grief or loss.
So here are three tips for those of you that are going through the Holiday Season for the first time—or even the fifteenth time—without that loved one around:
1. Know that you’re not alone. I believe this is the most important tip to remember. In the midst of grief, it’s easy to feel alone, and that becomes scary. No matter how long it’s been since your loved one is gone, reach out for support to family or friends; remember that loved one together.
2. Don’t be afraid of your feelings. You have the right to talk about what you are feeling without the fear of being a “killjoy.” People will appreciate your genuineness. It may even open doors for others’ pain.
3. Remember that God is with you in your grief. Thanksgiving is a time to remind ourselves about all of the good that is in our lives, and thank God for those gifts. Christmas is ultimately about Jesus bringing us the essential comfort: the reassurance that through Him we will one day celebrate with all of our loved ones the feast that has no end.
Here are a few tips for those of you who are not facing these same issues as mentioned above.
1. Try to check in with a person in a non-public way. This might be taking the chance to call ahead of the get-together and ask how the person you care about is doing. When they respond with “fine” its ok to remind them you are a safe person to talk to and you wouldn’t have called if you didn’t care.
2. Give freedom to renegotiate the traditions of the past. When a loved one is not present and they always carved the turkey or said the prayer it becomes a touchy time when that space presents itself. Feel free to name that at the beginning and listen to others in the family and friend group as to how you want to do that this year.
3. Try your very best to allow God to shut your mouth and open your ears. This is hard, especially for the folks who want to fix everything or are the best advice givers out there. This is not one of the times people need advice, they just need to be loved and heard. This is the ministry we are called to in the holiday season.
As we walk through this festival season, may we be a people able to acknowledge the pain that exists in our lives, while also living into the joy of the ones that are with us For some, this is a great time of year that we look forward to; now.