Holidays & Grief
Updated: Feb 19
I can’t believe it’s been one year already.
Last November our family lost two loved ones. My uncle died unexpectedly on November 13 after a brief illness and my Grammy passed away on November 27, Thanksgiving Day 2014.
For our family the holiday season starts with remembering the pain of loss.
Not exactly holiday cheer.
We feel the loss renewed at the anniversary of their passing providing dramatic contrast against the backdrop of the holiday season when we are expected to be merry, lighthearted, and happy.
This holiday season we will miss family members who have been a part of the celebrations all my life. The warm feelings of comfort, joy, and peace of the holidays pair with reminders of profound loss and longing.
Our family is not the only one experiencing loss this season. I often think of a counseling client who lost his wife this year. He’s struggling to consider how he and his children will face Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time without their wife and mother. We are certainly not alone in our grief and neither are you.
Words are inadequate to completely heal grief but I pray the following words direct you and I to better journey this season of celebration and grief.
Memory is a powerful tool intimately intertwined with emotion. In grief memory contains pain and sorrow but our memories also help provide healing. Now I’ll always remember Thanksgiving Day as the day we lost Grammy. It colors the day differently than before. As hard as it was to lose her on a holiday, seems appropriate to think of her that day because I’ll always be thankful for her influence on my life. Ignoring your grief may seem easier but it’s not a healthy option.
Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you’re experiencing today. In grief emotion seems to come in waves. Each of our emotions play an important part in life and in grief. Acknowledge grief and the accompanying emotion rather than trying to hide or stuff your real emotion.
It’s ok to celebrate the holidays even as you grieve. Your traditions will never feel the same but finding your way to celebrate will help heal the raw pain of loss. In his classic book on grief, A Decembered Grief, Harold Ivan Smith writes: “Be guided by the reality that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays after a loved one has died.”
As impossible as it may sound, do not give in to isolation in your grief. Surround yourself with others. You are designed for community. At Christmas we celebrate the reality that we are not alone. God is with us. Jesus also experienced grief following the death of his friend and met with others in his grief.
What has helped you the most in the past when you’ve faced grief during the holidays?
Other posts on grief and loss from Make Some Wonderful: