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.
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).
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.