HOLIDAYS CAN HURT
Twenty-two years later, holidays still hurt.
Close friends invited us for dinner last week. The invitation warmed our hearts because both friends are teachers. If you are a teacher, you understand how exhausted you are by Friday, especially close to Christmas. So, to rush home and cook a mouth-watering dinner with salad, soup, cashew chicken, roasted butternut squash, and Brussel sprouts seemed like an impossible but loving feat.
While the men talked, my friend invited me to come and see their Christmas tree. This tree was covered with family ornaments and was the most real-looking artificial tree I have seen in a long time. I quickly followed her into the living room. Her children are grown, and their tree was full of memories—handmade ornaments her kids had made and many beautiful dove ornaments she made. In the middle of the stories she shared about the decorations and pictures, she stopped, touched my arm, and asked, “Is Christmas painful for you?”
Tears welled up and spilled a little. I said, “Yes, it is. For a few years after Bart died, I had NO interest in Christmas. Christmas music crushed my soul, and I had NO interest in decorating. At family gatherings, especially at Christmas, I felt like I was outside of a depressed body watching everything from a distance.”
After sharing my feelings of grief with her, I felt more at peace. She helped me by bringing up my son’s death and asking me to share my feelings. By listening to me, she let me open my heart and spill what I try to hide every Christmas.
HOW TO GET THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS
If you have lost a loved one, grief never ends. It comes in waves. At first, the wave seems like it will drown you. As time goes on, the time between the waves gets longer, and the intensity of your pain ebbs. Grief is an act of love. The more you love, the more you grieve. We want to avoid the pain, but not the grief.
BUT, YOU CAN GET THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS!
- Expect the days leading up to the holiday to be more painful and emotional than the actual day of the event.
- Pray more (even if you don’t feel like it). God is waiting to help you if you share your feelings with Him and ask Him for help.
- Invite a friend to coffee. Ask them to listen (not try to fix you) as you share your feelings and tell stories about your loved one.
- Write a letter to your loved one.
- Keep a written journal for a week before the holiday of your feelings and experiences. Then write again the day after. Include the dates. You may want to come back to it and read it the next year.
- Share a story about your loved one at the holiday dinner.
- Go easy on yourself. You’re the only one who knows how painful it is and the one walking this road. Don’t feel guilty for being sad.
- Have a Plan “B” for family gatherings. Decide on a “reason” to excuse yourself from everyone or to leave and spend time alone.
- Buy a gift in honor of your loved one and donate it to a worthy cause.
- Volunteer to help those less fortunate.
If your loved one died recently, it’s hard to believe there can be any good that comes from grief. But, please keep an open heart and mind as I share not just my experiences, but those of others as well.
Every year for the last twenty-two years, I have received a treasure around Christmas time to let me know I am loved, and my loved one is nearer than I can imagine. These “messages” have come through letters and phone calls from Bart’s friends and teachers, shared stories of how much he impacted their lives, donations made in memory of him, etc. Perhaps God sees me hurting and sends messages to reassure me and confirm my hope.
I received one such message today when I attended church. It came through music.
After my son died, I would go to the place where we spread his ashes to sit, pray, cry, and softly sing songs that came into my heart. No one could hear or see me, and the beautiful landscape made it easier to let out what I tried to hide. The chorus of “I Exalt Thee” is one I sang over and over. Today, tears welled up as I sang it again, and I remembered all those times I had cried through my singing as I worshiped and grieved. Then it hit me; this was my Christmas message. I am loved and remembered, and God hears my heart’s cries and longs to comfort me.
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 New International Version (NIV)
Now that you have let me share my treasures, please watch these two videos our sister-in-law’s sister made this year. Her husband died unexpectedly on November 9, 2017. She shared these short videos with me and permitted me to share them.
Dora Finds Angel Wings
Dora Finds John’s Christmas Ornament
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The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
Psalm 145:13-14 NIV
You get to choose what you enjoy about each holiday and what you don’t. Yes, holidays will never be the same, but they can take on new meaning, and you can make new memories as the spirit of the holidays grows within you. Holiday joy and hope will show up in unexpected places and at times you do not plan. In the meantime, remember, your loss will never lessen, but your grief will.
I love this quote by Terri Irwin:
Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honour the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity.
I pray this article has blessed you and given you ways to cope with your grief during the holidays!
Please leave your comments and let me know…