Grief feels like crashing into a brick wall. You come to a sudden and painful stop, but the world continues on. Grief doesn’t accompany only death. We grieve loss of finances, health, and relationships. The stages of grief can be experienced in a forward and backward motion. One day you’re at step four, the next day you’re back to step two.
Holidays punctuate the pain of grief.
Like stripes on a candy cane, the twin ribbons of precious memories and searing loss wind around and around our hearts. There’re empty places at tables and missing voices in the holiday bedlam. Budget or physical condition may not allow us to celebrate our usual traditions.
Grief can steal the holidays the way Grinch stole Christmas.
As we are in the throes of the holidays, the Tradition of Christmas Tears might be the only holiday tradition many of us have in common. May your heart be helped if you’re facing the holidays with dread because of a searing loss.
At 36 I was in the midst of deep grief for a high school friend I’d lost to a brain tumor. She left behind a very distraught husband and four kids she adored. After six months of weeping I cried out to my friend, Kirsti, “I just can’t get over it!”
Her answer was balm to my fractured soul. “Mindy, you don’t have to.”
She gave me permission to grieve and actually guided me onto a path of healing. Grief is natural reaction to a loss and is not wrong, although some would make you feel it is. Grief is a necessary part of healing. You have permission to cry out to the God of Heaven who is listening with a heart filled with love. There is no timetable for when, or if, the tears will subside.
Tears are the silent language of grief. Voltaire
Whether you’re grieving the loss of financial security, health, or a beloved one, tears don’t ruin the holidays, they’re sometimes a part of the holidays. They wash away expectations and help us arrive at acceptance of our new situation.
~Grieve But Sin Not
I take the admonition in Ephesians 4:26 for anger and fill in other human emotions.
“Grieve, but sin not.”
Don’t turn away from the Lord in anger, turn to Him in acceptance. Just as we parents long to hold our crying children and kiss their boo-boos away, our Heavenly Father longs to embrace us during our pain. As hurtful as the situation is, He didn’t allow the circumstances to hurt us intentionally.
We can freely ask Him “Why?” and admit we don’t understand or like our circumstances. He can read our hearts and minds so we might as well be honest enough to acknowledge what He’s seeing.
I never understood how people could become alcoholics until I went through a series of heartbreaks. I wanted to wake up each day and take something to relieve the pain. It made me view abusers anew with compassion. Be careful to not abuse substances to relieve the pain.
Don’t use your broken heart as an excuse to break other hearts. It’s easy to snap at people when we’re on edge because of pain or loss. It’s acceptable to set boundaries or put yourself in time-out. Once when we had company I was feeling overwhelmed. I excused myself, went into my closet, and sobbed into an old sweatshirt. Then, I washed my face, fixed my makeup, and rejoined our company.
Let the grief expand and soften your heart instead of hardening it.
~Grieve but Live
Although your world has changed, those close to you still need you. Grief shouldn’t interfere with caring for others in the immediate circle. That doesn’t mean you go on as if nothing happened, but try to go on in small steps. Solitude is a part of the healing, but too much causes pain in others. Don’t pull away completely. Allow a few trustworthy people into your circle of grief.
During a bout of insomnia I saw a meme that said, “Do something extraordinary today.” I joked with my husband, “I got out of bed AND I got dressed.” Sometimes that’s extraordinary enough.
During grief we don’t have to function at the same pace or accomplish as much. The rules are different and it’s good to relieve some obligations. When people say, “If you need anything call me”, then call them. Let them be a blessing.
Holidays are special because of the people we celebrate with, not because of what we do for them. During cancer I learned my family still enjoyed the holidays with only two kinds of cookies and only one Christmas tree I didn’t even help decorate.
Don’t feel guilty over any enjoyment you experience, survivor’s guilt can affect you as much as loss.
We rejoice in spite of our grief, not in place of it. ~Woodrow Kroll
You’re learning to live with this loss. You can do this! Be kind to yourself and find some joy in the holiday season.
~Grow Through Grief
Every day you rub shoulders with people who’ve lost parents, children, and spouses, and people who’ve survived horrific diseases, accidents, financial losses, and divorces. They found a way to put one foot in front of the other, and you will, too. Your path will not look the same as theirs, you get to create your own path to living with your new life. They can provide tips and encouragement along the way.
The first step is to understand that grief doesn’t take time-off for the holidays. A dear friend yearly brought a tiny Christmas tree to her infant son’s grave. Another friend made an ornament with a picture of her and her recently passed mother. Find a gracious way to allow your grief to be a healing part of your holidays.
(available from Kylee’s Etsy shop called Hello Sugarmint for $5.00)
Grief can teach you what the Grinch was taught. Christmas came without.
If you merely show up with hugs, kisses, and all your brokenness, it is enough. It is more than enough, it’s all they need.
Because all they want for Christmas is YOU!