Grief and the HolidaysQUESTION: Grief and the holidays - How do I make it through?ANSWER:
Facing grief during the holidays was a constant struggle for Sharla. "People tell me it's time to move on, but I'm still feeling weighed down. How do I stop hurting?"
Handling grief is difficult and we often wonder how those emotions will define yet another day. Then when holidays approach we find grief intensifies. Suddenly the volume of celebrations is muted by our discordant grief. We can't suppress grief entirely in our lives, but we can discover ways to handle those seasons of sorrow.
Grief and the holidays often cause us to see ourselves as misunderstood participants in once familiar surroundings. We begin to feel isolated as others around us exhibit a jubilant attitude. One bereaved mother remarked, "I just really feel disconnected from that atmosphere. And I suddenly felt as if I didn't know anyone and they didn't know me."
At times it seems that others cannot understand our anguish and may even pull away. We may even view ourselves as a burden and resign ourselves to managing our grief in solitude.
Jesus chose Peter and two of His closest disciples to be with Him during a sorrowful and troubling time. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me" (Matthew 26:38). Yet His three companions slept while Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. No doubt Jesus experienced isolation and loneliness.
The combination of grief and the holidays may stir irritation, fear, and even anger. In the past we viewed the season as an opportunity to unite families and friends. Times of reconciling and reminiscing were enjoyed and anticipated. But now those well-intentioned family and friends try to speed us on to a comforted state, while attempting to avoid any painful stimuli. It's crucial to understand that grief involves a full range of emotions. A single father explains, "Opening gifts suddenly turned from giggles to tears. I wish that people would just be patient and understand that each time the feelings eventually get better again. But we always move through a cycle of emotions."
The Bible tells of how King David's security and sense of invincibility was easily shattered. Suddenly dismay had set in and he exclaims, "Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD be my help" (Psalm 30:10-11). What a wide range of emotion: from wailing (sadness) to dancing (joy)! So it is normal to expect a contrast of emotions during difficult times. We must allow ourselves to transition through them, while reflecting on the good memories.
We must not allow grief and the holidays to devalue the richness of those timeless memories. My mother, now well into her 80's, spends a great deal of time reflecting fondly upon the memories of her younger brother, Johnny. She speaks of his gentle nature and enthusiasm for sports and anything with wheels. Even with the 12 years between their ages, the duo was inseparable. But one day a baseball bat swing accidentally connected with Johnny's right elbow. A serious infection resulted but the necessary antibiotics were not available. Penicillin's effectiveness wasn't discovered until 1940. Five-year-old Johnny Miller, born on Labor Day, went to be with the Lord on Memorial Day.
Holidays and grief - who could possibly understand what a heart-broken teenager was experiencing at the loss of her precious brother? "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26). In the midst of grief we are never alone. Jesus Christ spoke urgently with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, and received strength to endure.
There is always a promise of hope for those facing grief and the holidays. In our grief, God wants us to realize we can have a new, enabling life. Events and seasons impact our lives in ways that forever transform us. God sent His Son Jesus to share our pain, to respond to our cries, and to help us choose a life filled with a new, eternal hope. "[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. . ." (Revelation 21:4).