Christmas is fast approaching. The holidays bring tons of excitement and anticipation for some, but for others, the holidays bring dread and anxiety. For those who have lost loved ones, especially within the last calendar year, the grief can overshadow the joy of holiday gatherings. Rather than joyful anticipation of gathering with friends and family, the holidays only magnify the absence of that precious friend or family member that is no longer present.
Even though the Bible tells us we do not grieve as those without hope, we still grieve the absence of our loved ones with whom we once shared and enjoyed these same holidays that we now have come to dread. What then are some helpful things to consider as we face the holidays with grief?
- In spite of overwhelming loneliness, remind yourself that it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He promised to never leave you or forsake you. (Heb. 13:5) Believe it to be so.
- Be honest enough to acknowledge that future holidays will never be the same as they once were, but don’t dismiss the fact that enjoying the holidays isn’t impossible. One of the ways you can actually enjoy the holidays is to be open to new traditions.
- Don’t feel like you have to attend every gathering to which you’re invited. You don’t owe your attendance to anyone. Conversely, be careful that you do not isolate yourself in order to avoid difficult conversations and awkward circumstances. Isolating oneself from others can feel like a protection, but it can just as likely lead to depression and foster loneliness.
- Focus on others. Take time to personally serve someone else in need (Phil. 2:4). Whether it be serving a meal at the Salvation Army, inviting neighbors to a Christmas party, or perhaps shopping for a PCO family with members of your growth group; focusing on the needs of others models the example of our Lord Jesus and provides a tangible outlet for you to find joy in the midst of your heartache.
- Don’t be afraid to speak of your family member’s absence and allow others to do the same. Speak of fond memories, laugh together when appropriate, and don’t be afraid to cry together either.
These suggestions are by no means exhaustive, but they might serve as a starting point to survive the holidays in the midst of grief. Regardless as to the severity of your grief, we should remember that our help comes from the Lord (Ps. 121:1) When Jesus told the disciples he would soon be leaving them, he promised that he would ask the Father to give them another Comforter to be with them forever. (Jn. 14:16-17). That Comforter is the Spirit of God who gives us peace, comforts us, encourages us and counsels us. May the Lord bless and keep you always and particularly during this holiday season.