Friday, December 14, 2012

Grieving During the Holidays

*Let me just start out by saying this isn't a post I ever wanted to write.  But after several conversations I've had recently, I realized it was a topic that affects so many of us.  And one that has laid heavy on my heart.

This may be the first Christmas you spend without a loved one.  Or it may be the fifteenth.  It might be someone far away.  Or a loved one as close as next door.  Whatever the case may be, it was be different.  Your heart may be heavy, ... broken, ... calloused.  Or perhaps it's resting in a more peaceful place than it was last year.  No matter the case, it will be holiday season that's changed through your grief, past or present.

Last August, my husband and I were away for the weekend.  A rare treat with little ones.  My mom was watching the kids for the weekend and we were celebrating 10 years of marriage.  It was a refreshing weekend to get away, but on our last morning, we received a phone call that my cousin had passed away.  Young, carefree, and troubled,... and in a moment he was gone.

We all began dealing with the grief in our own way.  Some more troubled than others.  But less than two months later, we received a second phone call.  My uncle, and closest neighbor growing up, was in the hospital after having a stroke.  His situation was pretty sensitive as he was also a lifelong diabetic.  They airlifted him to the hospital in our town, three hours from home, and my husband and I were some of the first ones to see him.  For a month, we had family living with us while we made our daily trips to the hospital.  Unfortunately, he passed away in early November 2011.  And the year wore on.

Weeks before Christmas, my husband and I had just returned from a memorial service for my uncle when we received yet another phone call.  His grandfather had just received the news that he only had months to live.  We sat down and reworked our plans that afternoon to spend New Years with his family.  Within 24 hours, his grandfather passed and again, we grieved.  And found ourselves at the second funeral/memorial in two weeks.

Our holidays certainly felt empty.

I say this not for your sympathy, but for those of you walking through it.  To say, I've been there.  It hurts.  No amount of memories can replace the feeling of your loved one's embrace.  I'm not writing this as one looking in.  But as one in the midst of swirling emotions, still fresh after a year.  And as we continue to grieve (and perhaps may never stop), I want to offer a small amount of encouragement that you can keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You can make it through today... and tomorrow... and even Christmas.

-Say a prayer- There were days last holiday season that I couldn't get out of bed without first praying.  Things as simple as fixing breakfast for my kids felt absolutely meaningless in the midst of my grief.  Each day I had to acknowledge my pain and ask the Lord to lift me up through the day.  Without that prayer, I would have wasted into nothing.

-Don't be afraid to mention their name-  Sometimes we don't want to say their name out loud on the chance of upsetting someone.  This was particularly the case with my Grandma.  And we all have to know when to be sensitive to that.  But so often I would find myself wanting to remember my cousins' laughter.  Or my uncles' own brand of teasing.  Or falling asleep while watching the Walton's Christmas special.  Those are memories that my family shared as well.  And just saying them, although mixed with tears, brought us all some relief.  As though it were ok to remember the good times and still miss them.

-Create a physical reminder of them- For some it may an ornament.  For others it may be a special angel for the mantel.  Still others may which to create a collage for the hall.  Whatever it is, don't be afraid to remember.

-Do something they would have loved- The years we spend Thanksgiving with my mom, we go out the day after and cut down Christmas trees.  That always reminds me of my uncle.  He loved it, even getting trees for family who couldn't join us that day.  Is there a favorite tradition that you enjoyed together?  Or a dish you always baked for your loved one?  Embrace it and try to remember how much they embraced it as well.

-Create a new memory- Likewise, don't be afraid to veer from tradition simply because your loved one isn't there to enjoy it.  Sometimes creating new traditions can remind us that we're still here.  We still have new things to experience and enjoy.  And that's ok too.

-Visit the grave site- In my every day life, I love flowers, but feel they're so frivolous.  But when visiting a loved one's grave site, I love to take flowers.  It's just a small token of love.  Take some flowers, a poinsetta, or a wreath.  And give yourself time to grieve, talk, pray, or sing.

-Give yourself permission to grieve- Sometimes, this is the hardest one of all.  Society tells us to cry, wipe the tears, and move on.  But grief has a funny way of sneaking up on you if you don't give yourself time to deal with it in your own way and on your own timeline.  This can be especially hard on us moms and dads with children at home.  I know I felt the pressure last year to carry on with Christmas as usual "for the sake of my kids."  But it's important for us to grieve.  And to be ok with our grief.  As hard as that may sound, it's also important for our children to see us process through grief as they learn from our example.

If you're grieving this holiday season, please know that you're not alone.  You have my deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers.  I would love to pray for you.  Feel free to leave me a comment sharing how I can pray for you.  Or if you're not comfortable with a public forum, you can reach me through the contact info on the top of the page.

May the Lord grant you peace beyond your own understanding as He comforts and guides you through this season!

1 comment:

Chlokade said...

Your article is so beautiful & touching. Thank you so much for sharing.

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