Grief Doesn’t Pause for the Holidays
I enjoy the celebrative season that we have entered in to; it has special meaning for me and presents many opportunities to share time with my family. Yet in the midst of all the joy, I think of those who face the extreme challenges associated with grieving the death of a loved one. Grief is never an easy part of life, but for many, it becomes even more difficult during the holiday season–grief does not pause or take a break during Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other holiday.
I trust that a few thoughts along this line of need will be helpful to both those who are grieving and those who are trying to help a friend or relative through this trying time of life.
A good place to begin is recognizing that grieving the loss of a loved one is a normal response to an event that rearranges life. That certainly does not mean that it is simple or easy—it is neither, but it is a normal emotional reaction to loss. We find that even Jesus Christ grieved when He learned of the death of His dear friend Lazarus: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Sometimes it helps just to know that we are normal even in the midst of great emotional pain.
We need to also realize that the grieving process does not usually follow a nice straight line; emotions for the grieving commonly swing back and forth along the journey toward emotional healing. With the many memories associated with the holiday season, those grieving should not be surprised if they experience setbacks in the grieving process.
Hopefully, recognizing that grief is a normal response to the death of a loved one and that the grieving process often follows a crooked and bumpy path is of some value. But what are some things that can help an individual effectively cope with grief during the holiday season?
One is to pay attention to your needs. Take care of yourself spiritually by spending time with God in prayer, meditation and Scripture reading. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally by eating properly, resting adequately, and exercising regularly.
Planning ahead can also be of help. Rather than just allowing the stress of the season to pile up on you, think ahead about the things that you really need to do, and perhaps the things and places you need to avoid to prevent excessive emotional strain.
Then give yourself permission in some areas: permission to cry when you need to, permission to turn down some invitations, permission to do things differently than you have in the past, permission to hope for a better tomorrow. And of great importance, give yourself permission to seek help in dealing with grief when needed. Ministers, doctors and other professionals are there to help you; hospices and other organizations have personnel trained to assist the grieving, and there may be grief support groups offered that can be of immense value. Take advantage of the help that is available; don’t try to go it on your own.
Grief is never easy, and it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. But with God’s help, self determination, support from family and friends, you will make it.
I do not know who originally penned the following words, but I leave them with you for your encouragement: “When our vision is clouded by circumstance. . . God sees clearly. When our understanding is shadowed by questions . . . God knows perfectly. When our path is shaded with uncertainty . . . God leads faithfully.”