Guest Post: When the Holidays are Hard

by jessicaturner on December 21, 2011

Today I cried myself to work as I listened to Laura Story’s song Blessings. Here is the song if you aren’t familiar with it.

It always makes me think of Sara. It was played at her funeral and the words remind me of her life so much. I also thought about my Nana, who went to be with the Lord at the beginning of the year.

Coincidentally, I asked my friend Holley to write a guest post on grief during the holidays.  She is a counselor and remarkably wise woman.

I know grief is a part of our Christmas story this year. If it is yours, I pray Holley’s words help you.

Peace be with you today.


We’ll soon celebrate Christmas once again. For many, it’s a time of appreciation and joy. For others, it can be one of the most difficult days of the year. This is often true for women facing infertility, families who have recently experienced the loss of a mother, and many other painful situations.

I’ve learned what it’s like for the holidays to be hard through my work as a writer for DaySpring, a counselor and in my personal life too. And, thankfully, I’ve learned a little about what can help too.

Embrace Your Emotions
First, if Christmas is difficult for you then give yourself permission to grieve. When holidays come, we often put expectations on ourselves to feel a certain way. We may think, “This is a special occasion. I have to put on a happy face and make the best of it.” But it’s okay to feel sad and even cry. As the authors of The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions say simply and powerfully, “We grieve because we loved.”

It’s also helpful to realize that emotions are not good or bad. They are just messengers that tell us about what’s going on in our lives. Sadness tells us, “You’ve lost something or someone important to you.” It’s not a sin to feel sad. Jesus often experienced sadness and the Bible says he was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with grief” (ISAIAH 53:3 NIV).

Seek Support
Sometimes we need to be alone to experience our emotions, but usually it is wise to seek support. From the very beginning of creation, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. This is especially true when we are grieving. Jesus modeled this when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He brought several of his disciples with him and said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (MATTHEW 26:38 NIV).

Support can take many different forms. Hopefully, you have close friends and family members who can walk through this time with you. It’s important not to assume they know you need their comfort. Unless they have experienced a similar loss, they don’t know what it’s like. So don’t be afraid to call them or tell them what you need. You won’t be imposing. They probably want to help but don’t know what to do.

Do Something Special
While doing something special when you are sad may feel a bit overwhelming, it’s important because it will help you be proactive rather than reactive in addressing your loss. Many people think that it’s better to avoid or bury their grief. But the opposite is actually true. Healing only comes when we acknowledge and embrace our losses. As Dr. Gary Oliver says, “If you bury an emotion, it’s always buried alive.”

The kind of action you take depends on your personality and the nature of your loss. For example, if you lost your mother then you might write her a letter. If you lost an unborn child, you might donate to a crisis pregnancy center in his or her honor. You and your spouse might look at photos of the sister you lost to breast cancer or visit a place where you used to go together. You may think, “But that will make me sad!” That’s okay. Experiencing grief is part of healing.

You can also simply do something nice for yourself. If you enjoy going to restaurants, then have a special meal with a friend or spouse. If you like taking long walks or bubble baths, make time in the day for that activity. Part of getting through grief is taking care of you. As long as it isn’t something harmful or numbing, doing something special for yourself can help you through a difficult day.

Hold Onto Hope
At one point in my journey it seemed as if I couldn’t take another step. I felt as if I were in a dark cave. But then I sensed the Lord gently and lovingly speak to my heart, “You may be in a cave, but you still have a choice. You can sit in despair or you can diamond-mine your difficulties.” I decided I was not leaving that time in my life empty-handed. I was taking every hidden blessing I could find. Of course, I still had difficult days. But choosing hope made a difference.

I don’t know how my journey will end and you probably don’t know how yours will either. I also don’t know how many of you will be silently grieving your losses as we sit in church together this Sunday. But I do know that God sees each one of us. He knows how many hairs are on our heads and how many cares our in our hearts. Whatever you’re going through this holiday season, you’re not facing it alone. As King David, a man who experienced many losses in his life, expressed in Psalm 34:18 NIV, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Praying God surrounds you with love, fills you with hope, and gives you strength for each moment—especially this Christmas.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara December 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

Wow. Thanks for sharing this. My cousin and I were just talking yesterday about how Christmas is, at the same time, the most wonderful and heart-wrenching time of year for our family. Remembering the blessings gets us through it.


Shannon December 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

Praying for your heart and the empty spots in it today…asking our God to fill you with peace. May you find comfort in the unexpected, and may you remember how very loved you were *and still ARE*. One huge hug to wrap you today as we walk through a Christmas that seems so different without those we love in it.


terrie m December 21, 2011 at 11:09 am

This song has been on my iPod for a while. Makes me be more compassionate to others.


jessicaturner December 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I just love it. Though I can’t listen to it without crying now.


Nanette R. December 21, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for this post and for sharing the post from Holley as well. I will need to go back and read it all again when I can give in to the feelings that started welling up inside me (this will be our first Christmas without my dad).


jessicaturner December 21, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I know how hard it is. This is the first Christmas without my Nana and dear friend. Hard. stuff. But God is with us.


Katie D. December 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Jessica, thank you for posting this beautiful song. I have never heard it, but it definitely hit a chord (and had me sobbing!!). My first husband was killed in a car accident three weeks before Christmas in 2006. Even though I am now remarried with 2 beautiful daughters, Tim’s death affects me every day, and I can’t ever imagine a day that I won’t miss him. Christmas gets especially difficult for our family (yes, his family is still mine!), but we are extremely tight-knit, and we focus on the joy as much as possible as well as the fact that Tim would never ever want us sitting around ruining Christmas by being depressed! I can’t wait to share this song with my mother-in-law. I think it will mean a lot to her as well. Christmas time holds so many strong memories for all of us, and it’s hard not to miss those who are no longer with us.


Ashley December 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Needed this TODAY – this very moment! Thank you!


MaryAnn Perry December 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I so needed this. I lost my brother in May this year, so this is the first holiday season without him. It has been a struggle of emotions. The season has been magical for my little girls….but difficult for me without my baby brother….so thank you….i needed this…thank you so much.


diane December 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Lost my aunt 5 years ago on December 29. Christmas is truly very bittersweet for me. Thank you for posting this.


Ruthie December 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm

The holidays are always touched with laughter through the tears as we remember loved ones we’ve lost. I miss my grandma soooo much this time of year…she lives on in the memories & all the Christmas ornaments & decorations she passed on to us…but I am in tears as I’m reminded of how wonderful Christmases were with her in them…life will never be the same, but we carry on with our own families to make memories for them to cherish in the years to come. Thanks for sharing…I’ve never heard this song, but LOVE it & continue to play it. Merry Christmas & may God bless your family without your dear friend & Nana :)


Holley December 22, 2011 at 10:31 am

So grateful to be here, friend! Love you!


Debbie December 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

Thank you.
I have not lost a close loved one recently in death, but my precious daughter is a prodigal and I miss her so much. She is now with child and still will not allow us into her life. We don’t know if or when we will see her or this child again while here on earth.
I would appreciate prayer. It is hard, and has been three years now since she left.

I will pray for all of you Right now. I did and I will again.
May God comfort each of you.
He is able. Jer. 32:27


Sandra Price December 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

This post is so fitting and applicable to the Christmas season and to how we deal with grief year round. No matter what we deal with, Jesus knows our pain and makes a way to peace, hope, true comfort, and love! Thank you for these words.


Jeri Taira December 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm

So insightful and such a help as we stand by those who are hurting this season. Instead of feeling helpless and “blurting”, we can offer to a part in some of these for them.

As we process our hurts and losses, you have given us permission to grieve and lay limp at His feet while He sings over us and breathes life into us…again.

Thank you so much Holley.


Jeri Taira December 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Jessica, thank you for sharing your pain with us. Been thinking about my Grandfather and wonderful mentor Glenn who have both passed on.

I send you a hug and I sit silently with you as we linger in the memories of those beautiful people were blessed enough to love.


Shannon December 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Grief comes in waves and at unexpected moments months after i learned I wouldn’t be having our sweet baby after all. Thank you for reminding me my Jesus is acquainted with grief and collects my tears in a bottle this Christmas.


Jody December 22, 2011 at 11:57 pm

My dad died very expectantly 12 days before Christmas 12 years ago. Christmas and losing him just go hand and hand now. You can never really separate the two. Christmas gets easier as the years go by, but there are always quiet moments that creep up and you find yourself remembering with tears. I remember praying so hard on the way to the hospital that night after being told he had been injured in a fire. I can still remember the stars shining against the moon-lit sky as I looked heavenward and asked God to let me keep my dad, that I’d take him any way I could. In reality, my dad had already left this world long before we were even told there was an incident. He simply dropped dead while working the fire. Talking to my brother one moment, laying in the road the next. And the only thing that makes that even close to being ok is that I have the hope of seeing him again. Only two years before his death, my dad came to the Lord. I’ve missed him every day for 12 years and I’m sure I’ll miss him every day for the rest of my earthly life. But there will be a day I’ll miss him no more. That is the best gift anyone could give there loved ones: the hope of eternity together.

Jessica, I pray that God will comfort you as you remember your loved ones this Christmas. May the promise He begun on Christmas morning and fully accomplished on Easter morning bring you peace.

Comfort & Joy,


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