After my father died, I recall my mother saying that the “firsts” were the worst: the first birthday without him, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first anniversary of his death.
I think that she was partially right. The “firsts” are heartbreaking and painful, but that doesn’t mean the “seconds” or “thirds” will be significantly better, unless you do something to change the patterns of pain.
If this is your first holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas without someone you love, or if it is the 2nd, 5th or 10th and you are still struggling, I want to offer heartfelt help in coping with the pain, while preserving the precious memories. Here is a process that will move you closer to the comfort and strength of the heart of God:
First step: Make a list of the blessings and joys you shared over the years with the person you love. Rather than making you feel worse, such a list shifts your focus from the loss you have endured to the joy you have experienced. This is a key step in the grieving process, as it moves your heart from the ache of grief to the comfort of gratitude. Thank God for every blessing and joy listed, and list even more. Dare to share elements of your list with people who love and support you. Refusing to talk about the one you have lost only isolates you in your grief.
Second: Step out of your isolation and make plans now to attend the Surviving the Holidays event at church on November 5th from 3-5pm. This time with members of our Pastoral Care team will help equip you for the difficult days when the grief may seem overwhelming. Such moments may cause you to feel all alone; being a part of the church reminds you that you are never alone. Christ is always with you, and He sends people to be His love in your life. Make plans to attend, and make a commitment to someone else to be present. Such a commitment is difficult to break if you waver at the last minute. Reach out to Staci Allen, our Director of Pastoral Care, and let her know that you will be coming so we can expect you or register here.
Third: Offer your help to someone else. Nothing opens your eyes to the love of God like sharing that love with another. There is no doubt that there is someone you know who is struggling this season with grief or pain. Even though you may feel ill-equipped, reach out to them and offer your support. It may be a phone call, a letter, or even something made with love delivered by you . . . In whatever love language you are comfortable, reach out to someone hurting this holiday season.
Final step: Start something new: a new tradition, a new endeavor, a new Thanksgiving observance or Christmas practice. Whatever appeals to you, start something new, as it stirs the heart and comforts the soul!
And if you take all the steps, will you cease to grieve? No. You may always grieve, but with each step you take that draws you closer to the heart of God, your grief will change from heartbreaking pain to heartfelt gratitude for the love and life shared with the one you are missing.
Blessings this Thanksgiving and Christmas season,