We usually think of the holidays as a time to gather with family and friends in celebration. However, when we are grieving, we often times do not feel like celebrating; in fact, some of us would prefer to hide under the covers until the holiday season is over with – or simply skip the holidays all together. When we experience a significant loss, our lives have been changed in a dramatic way. Holidays and other special occasions serve as a reminder of just how much our lives have changed. Thus, holidays become painful and even overwhelming.
Holidays can also be a time to confront our pain as we reexamine our relationships and traditions. We can choose to see the holidays as an invitation to find healing on our journey of grief. Over the next several days, I will be posting some different suggestions and thoughts on how to cope with grief during the holidays and other special occasions.
Allow yourself to be surprised by joy
It is important to recognize that our grief is not all there is once our loved one has died, or a major life transition has occurred. Over the years I have spoken with many bereaved, and many express the fear that they will never feel joy again – or if they do, there is then feelings of guilt as if by feeling joy they are somehow not being respectful to their loved one or honest about the changes that have occurred.
Joy is a reminder of new life, and there are times that we have to look really hard in order to see it or feel it. When I am officiating a funeral, I always try to find some happy and joyful memories that the family has of their loved one, and share this in the service to encourage laughter. This is to help them know that throughout the grief journey there will be a wide spectrum of emotions.
It is okay to let joy into your grief, to let the sun shine and chase away the shadows – even if it be for a moment, it is okay to laugh and smile and embrace the glimpses of life around you. Try to remember that love never ends, so when we take the time to remember past joyful memories with our loved one we are honoring their memory, their life, and letting love continue to bloom – even when we are filled with despair.
The day is grey and heavy with thick fog,
Fog that clings to all it touches,
blocking out the brightness of the sun.
Yet even as the fog clings to winter’s nakedness,
The trees lift their arms
Almost in defiance of the swirling grey,
Reaching out in a gesture of defiant praise,
Knowing where the sun is,
Refusing to give into the fog’s mantle of sorrow
The trees in their defiant praise point the way to truth –
There is Light!
There is Life!
There is Hope!
There is Joy!
Defiant praise in the midst of barren nakedness
That we all might stand
Lifting our arms in defiant praise
With and for God
In our own nakedness and winter vulnerability
Knowing there is light and life
Turning the shroud and somber, heavy, clinging fog into
A gentle embrace of God’s love and presence
As always, I am holding you in the healing light of God’s love…