One of the greatest lessons I learned after my husband and I experienced great loss, right at the beginning of the 2008 holiday season, is that grief and joy can coexist. I don’t understand it. I certainly can’t explain it. I only know it’s true.
Perhaps one of the most important things we can do during the holiday season is to acknowledge the grief that we feel. It does no good to try to ignore it. And berating ourselves with thoughts like “This is silly. I shouldn’t be grieving over this” or “That happened a long time ago. I should be over it by now” only makes matters worse.
This year, grief comes in all shapes and sizes. People on the west coast grieve because of all they’ve lost and continue to lose in wildfires. People on the Texas coast grieve because of all they lost in Hurricane Harvey. One friend posted a picture of snow-covered piles of debris—the first snow the coast has seen since 2004—with the caption “It’s a Very Harvey Christmas!”
Perhaps your grief comes from the loss of relationships. This is your first holiday season without loves ones who have died this year. Or perhaps people have betrayed you and the place they once held in your life is now just a lot of emptiness.
For me personally, watching my elderly mother endure constant pain and my inability to do anything to alleviate her suffering cause frequent bouts of grief. There are those who would admonish me to be grateful that my mother is still living. To them I would say, I am grateful. I do realize how blessed I am to still have my mother. But that does not lessen the grief I feel when I see her suffering.
With Christmas just one week away, what can we do to cope with grief, even as we celebrate the birth of our Savior? If you are grieving because of the death of a loved one, check out these ideas. If your grief is due to other types of loss, here are a few suggestions that seem especially helpful:
Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself time to grieve. If you need to cry, cry. Don’t be ashamed of your tears.
Change up your routine. The first Christmas after my mother-in-law passed away, my husband’s family came to our house for Christmas instead of everyone gathering at the homeplace as we’d always done in the past. It didn’t remove the grief but it lessened the pain.
Have Plan B. If Plan A is to attend a Christmas Eve service, Plan B could be to go to a movie or drive around and look at Christmas lights. If you get to the church and find you just cannot go inside, switch to Plan B. Saying “I just can’t do this” is a healthy way to deal with grief.
Use caution when listening to Christmas music. If you’re out in public, you probably can’t avoid it. But when you’re at home or in your car, be aware of how the music you listen to impacts your soul. If hearing Andy Williams declare “It’s the most won-der-ful time of the year” makes you want to hurl the radio across the room, turn it off. Nothing makes me change the station faster than hearing the first notes of “Christmas Shoes.” But if you can’t imagine Christmas without music, choose which songs help and listen to those. For me, it’s Michael W. Smith and Carrie Underwood’s duet, “All is Well.”
If you are grieving this Christmas season, please know that I’m praying for you. I may not know your name or your situation but I pray that as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, you will feel His loving arms wrap around you and hear Him say, “You’re going to be OK. I am here.”