Growing up as a child I never fully understood why my Grandma struggled so much to get in the Christmas spirit. She would say things like “I might not even put up a tree this year” or “I might not even get out a single decoration this Christmas.” I had no idea why she wouldn’t be thrilled especially during the happiest time of the year. Years later I realize that after she lost her youngest daughter to cancer things just weren’t the same for the holidays.
I bet many of you reading this can so relate to my Grandma’s holiday blues. You miss so much that person you thought would always be a part of your life. You have never gotten used to living without them and you feel you never will. You miss their smile, their hugs, and especially their presence. You know the holidays will come and go regardless, but you’re just not feeling in the mood. What can you do to move forward?
I deal with grieving people every day of my life. For sure there is no one way to grieve because every relationship, person, and situation is different. However, there are some things that others have found to be very helpful as they seek to get in the holiday mood.
First, expect to have trigger moments. Being overwhelmed by the loss of a loved one can come at some of the most unexpected time. You can fully expect to have times where you miss terribly their presence. Maybe you always went shopping together a certain time each year. Maybe they always cooked a certain recipe that everyone enjoyed. Maybe that empty chair at the end of the table on Christmas day makes you fall to pieces. Expect to have trigger moments especially if your loss is recent and you’re still embracing the fact they are gone.
Second, take time to celebrate their memory. Tears are not a sign of weakness, but how God has wired us to drain out the deepest of feelings. Grief is a process, not an event. Often times if you miss them so does someone else in your family. Why not take the time to share stories, laughter, smiles, and even tears as you think about the good times of the past? Many times surfacing the memory of a loved one is like ushering their presence into the room. That loved one who has passed will always be part of your life. Don’t ever think you have to bury their memory. Don’t think you have to run from your grief because it will run you down. Talking things over with others is always healthy, but keeping it all inside is never a good idea. Process your thoughts and celebrate their life.
Three, carry on with past traditions. Just because you’ve experienced certain changes related to their death doesn’t mean everything has to change. Both my grandparents died within four weeks apart from one another a few years ago. Our family is still adjusting, but we can still carry on and honor them by continuing traditions they started years ago. Someone else will have to make the Baby Jesus Birthday Cake for Christmas Eve that Grandma always made. We can take turns quoting the same old jokes my Granddad would have shared if he weren’t in Heaven. Pick up the torch, carry on with tradition, and be motivated by knowing they would hope their loss brought the family even closer together.
Four, realize change is unavoidable. Early into grief there may need to be at least a periodic change of location and traditions. Sometimes the grief is so fresh that you just can’t continue with business as usual. If you need to get away and do something fun, go for it. If this year’s Christmas gathering needs to be hosted by someone else and somewhere else let your loved ones know that it’s just too hard to carry on with normal traditions. A big part of grieving in a healthy way is proactively putting yourself in a position that allows you to move forward. There are many things related to grief that only get easier over time. Everyone is different and sometimes your heart is just too full to be around the sights and sounds of past normal events . I promise you this as one grieving lady told me. “In time, you will never get over it, but you will over time get through it.” It’s like learning to walk again one step at a time.
Lastly, Christmas will stir many emotions. However, it always brings with it the reminder of hope. In Christ, that loved one who has died is no longer in pain, instead they’re in paradise.(Revelation 21:4) says, In Heaven, “There will be no more sorrow, pain, or crying for the old order of things has passed away.” Through Jesus Christ, you will able to see your loved one again when your time on this earth is done. (John 14:1-6) In Christ, we are able to find comfort that God is and always will be here for us. (John 14:16) That baby in the manger was more than just another birth, but brought hope to the world. God is with us and He will help us get through this tough holiday season. This Christmas and every one to come gives us reason to celebrate our forever Hope in Jesus Christ.
(Hebrews 6:19)(NLT) “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”