The Holiday season can be incredibly difficult for those who are grieving a loved one. What can you do to help yourself through while keeping your eyes on Jesus?
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9
The year is almost over, and the holiday season is nearly here. For many, the holidays are bright and joyous. For some of us, the holidays are a stark reminder of who we’re missing this season. We naturally react to withdrawal from pain, but special occasions can make that especially difficult. Jesus was clear that we would have trouble in this world, and He came to deliver us from our pain and give us hope. Grieving can distance us from hope and faith, and God can sound overwhelmingly silent. He intimately knows our pain and wants to bring us comfort. Allowing yourself to be comforted often means letting the Holy Spirit lead you one small step at a time. Here are a few tips to help you navigate this holiday season.
Your Grief is Special
As much as we don’t want to go through grief, our mourning is a testament to our love and the relationship we had. That’s what makes your grief unique and why others’ grief may look different from yours. You might notice others experience similar symptoms of grief, but everyone’s journey through grief is different. Don’t minimize your feelings based on how others may be grieving or how others may say you should be grieving. Honor your grief where it is without trying to mold it into what you think it should be.
Give Yourself Grace
Grace and grief feel as if they couldn’t be further apart when we’re buried under the pain of losing a loved one. Grace is patience, kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance in every piece of our broken, hurting hearts. Grief is a powerful, devastating emotion. Like any strong emotion, it can have physical effects on the body. You may see symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, forgetfulness, anxiety, and irritability. Give yourself grace when you’re frustrated because you aren’t functioning like normal. Create to-do lists or put sticky notes somewhere you’ll be sure to notice them to help you stay on track. Sync up a paper calendar with a calendar on your phone to remember important dates, meetings, appointments, or events.
Give Others Grace
Losing a loved one can make it feel like your world has stopped on its axis. Life is moving around you at hyper-speed, and you’re struggling to keep up. It can be frustrating and upsetting when you feel like your life has been thrown off balance, but those around you seem unaffected. It’s important to hold yourself accountable and not allow your internal pain to inflict external damage. Everyone grieves differently, and what they’re doing to cope may not be the same thing you’re doing. Those who aren’t experiencing grief may not know or understand what it means to be experiencing it. Speak openly about what you’re going through to those in your life. Being open about your experience can help others empathize with your feelings and how they impact you.
Don’t Over-Do It
Setting too high of expectations for yourself this season will leave you burned out. Some may try to bury their grief in a long list of to-dos and events, only to find themselves tired and miserable. Start small and test the waters first. Don’t over-commit yourself. If you’re usually in charge of the food for Thanksgiving, ask everyone else to pitch in with a dish. Delegate tasks to others for cooking, decorating or cleaning. Be mindful of your limitations. Only commit yourself to small get-togethers until you’re sure of your limits, and don’t be afraid to excuse yourself early if you’re struggling. In 1 Kings chapter 19, Elijah struggled, so he prayed and took a nap. When an angel of the Lord appeared, he didn’t force Elijah to get up and get moving. He gave Elijah some food and water, and Elijah rested. Eat some food, drink some water, and rest in this season.
Honor Your Loved Ones
One of the hardest things to do during the holidays is participate in a tradition when we’re grieving the loss of a loved one. We can experience pain at the reminder or guilt over continuing the tradition without them present. Sometimes, continuing that tradition can be emotionally beneficial in keeping them a part of the spirit. It’s also okay, though, if you don’t. Now might be a good time to pick a new tradition. Light a candle or donate to a cause in their memory. Honor their legacy by sharing something that made them wonderfully special. Pastor Jason Britt of Bethlehem Church said, “Legacy isn’t what’s left behind for others. It's what’s left behind in others.”
Gratitude is a powerful tool. It can be difficult to see through the lens of grief. When we root ourselves in real gratitude, it can take us beyond our pain. When we’re suffering, we can feel emotionally disconnected from those around us and our faith. You’ve changed, so it makes sense that your relationship with God and others must also change. Explore new ways to reach out to God. Start a gratitude list. Write down five things every day that you’re thankful for. Give thanks to the Lord that even in the midst of our pain, He loves us unconditionally. We can grieve those we’ve lost while still being grateful for who we’re still surrounded by.
Remember Why We Celebrate
After experiencing the loss of a loved one, we can struggle to find comfort in the things we used to. The holidays can feel shallow and materialistic. We celebrate Christmas in honor of Jesus, the living embodiment of the Spirit. Jesus was born to bring our deliverance from pain and suffering and to extend love, forgiveness, and grace. Jesus is our salvation; He knows the pain we experience during grief. On an ornament, write the names of people you can pray for this season. Do the same with the names of people you’re grateful for. Hang them on a tree, your fridge, or wherever you can see them to find encouragement.
Be gentle with yourself this holiday season. Seek help from friends, family, church, or counseling if you find yourself struggling to cope. With the right support, you can learn to process your grief. Peace and pain can coexist. Above all, pray and give thanks to the Lord, who loves us in our brokenness. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you” – Ephesians 1:18