Continuing from Grief and the Holidays – Part 1’s post that talked about allowing yourself to be “surprised by joy,” I also remember a tradition that some congregations have started offering their communities – A special service known as, “A Blue Christmas.” This is a worship service that helps acknowledge the pain and sorrow that is woven into the holiday season. It is a service that helps those who grieve, those for whom the holidays are difficult, come before God in community to express our broken hearts, our sense of overwhelming loss, as well as hear words of hope and encouragement and comfort – to know that we are not alone in our sorrow.
So today’s suggestions for helping to cope with the holidays in the midst of grief include:
Allowing yourself to feel the sadness that is there.
Our society often encourages us to hide our sense of sadness and sorrow, to act as if those feelings are not present. For one who is grieving the pain is always present – granted it will be felt at varying intensities, but it is there and can not be ignored. When we try to squelch or suppress painful feelings and memories, we also end up putting up a barrier that prevents us from fully experiencing other feelings, such a joy, peace, love and hope. When we do not allow ourselves to feel we offer ourselves and those around us a numbness that too easily looses touch with reality and the fullness of God’s love and healing.
One reason given to not acknowledging or feeling our sadness and pain is that it might cause us to cry – and sometimes in seemingly awkward situations, such as church or the grocery store; and many of us fear showing our tears in public places. This leads to my second invitation for today:
Allow yourself and those with you to cry.
Tears are built in cleansing agents, a way of releasing and ridding toxins from our body. There have even been scientific studies done on the chemical make up of tears. Tears that are shed as a result of grief or other traumatic event have a higher level of toxins than do tears from something like cutting an onion. So when we do not allow ourselves or others to cry, we are allowing unhealthy toxins to build up in our body – which can lead to illness.
This is not to say that crying is the only way to show grief, or said in another way – if you do not cry that you are not grieving. The point here is to not feel guilty or embarrassed when you are with someone and they start to cry, or you start to cry – what is needed is compassion and presence, not condemnation. Who knows, you might even find yourself moved to tears, as Jesus was when he first saw Martha’s tears after her brother Lazarus died.
Tears can be cleansing and exhausting, so be gentle with yourself and those around you. You might even discover that you are crying and laughing at the same time. The grief journey is filled with emotions – emotions that God created within us to FEEL and express. Services such as The Blue Christmas, remind us that our sadness is not the only feeling that is present – but we will never know this if we don’t allow ourselves to feel and embrace the plethora of emotions.
Believe me, I know none of this is easy – this is one of the reasons Grieving Hearts is here – so that you will know that you are not alone on this journey and there is hope.
As always, I am holding you in the healing light of God’s love…