Christmas can be stressful for many people - the gift buying, the intense social schedule, financial pressures. These aside, for many people the holidays seem to make extra fresh the grief we feel with the loss of a loved one. This grief can certainly be a result of losing a family member or close friend to death, and it can also mean mourning the loss of a long-term relationship. As painful as these experiences are year round, there is often a fresh sense of grief around significant holidays - especially those that are packed with meaning of family and tradition.
It is not just recent loss that brings the feelings of grief upon us; many people find the loss of a loved one of several years past might be very fresh in their hearts and minds around Christmas. Grief is grief whether it is fresh or a couple of decades old. The key is to recognize that it is grief you are experiencing.
Grief is a natural response to loss. The kinds of losses are varied and could include the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, the loss of a friendship, the loss of a job and financial security, loss of a pet, a failed marriage or the loss of health. Generally, the greater the loss, the more intense the feelings of grief but understand that all personal losses will generate some degree of grief and will often need to be journeyed through.
It is important to understand that there is no "one-way" to grieve as there are many factors that affect the ways we express our grief. These can be a function of our culture, our personality type, the ways we have developed to cope. It is also important that we realize mourning a loss takes time, and the amount of time is often different for each individual.
Christmas can be a really tough season but with some faithful, forgiving friends and family, and some self-care you can journey through even the most difficult times. Here are a few things that can help us with dealing with grief through Christmas.
Connect with friends and family - if at all possible look for positive, healthy opportunities to connect live and in person with friends and family. Face to face affords the opportunities for us to connect in deeper ways with others, and they can be effective sounding boards and sources of encouragement, acceptance, and belonging. If face to face is not possible, pick up the phone and call a friend or a family member or two! This may work well with good Facebook friends as well.
Be honest about how you are feeling - with yourself and your friends and family. If you are feeling down and lonely, tell your friends so. Chances are your friend's genuinely care and are willing to help, especially if they know you need a little extra support.
Look for a Christmas day event or program - Often there are special events, Church services and support group meetings on Christmas day. These events are deliberately scheduled on Christmas day because the organizers know there are many folks who may be alone and having a tough go on Christmas. Many of these activities can be found in a local newspaper or online.
Get some exercise - Get out of the house go for a brisk walk - prayer walks, listen to uplifting music while you walk, ride a bike - be active and utilize other stress management techniques.
Perform a Commemorative act - It is often helpful to recognize the loss of a loved one with something of meaning. This may mean lighting a candle, making a financial donation or volunteering to serve others in memory of your loved one. This helps us to connect in a meaningful way to our loved one; a demonstration of love, an active, healthy way of remembering and gives meaning to their memory.
Contact a Support Help Line - If your feelings become too overwhelming it may be a good idea to connect with a reputable Crisis Intervention Hotline where trained volunteers are standing by with a caring, attentive ear and some hands on advice. Check your local telephone directories, newspapers or online to find a support line for you.
Look to God - Many people have a faith that they can rely upon during times of struggle. Personally, I have found my faith in Jesus Christ to be a very effective, present source of comfort during seasons of intense challenge and grief. I have personally found comfort through prayer and singing worshipful songs to God. I have also found comfort in the Bible.
Here is a collection of quotes from the Bible that I have personally found encouraging, but there are many more!
- Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”
- Psalm 57:1 “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.”
- Jeremiah 29:11“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
- Isaiah 40:28-31 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
- Isaiah 41:10 “…do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
- Isaiah 43: 1-2 “Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
- Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
- Luke 6:20-22 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
- John 3:16-17 "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him."
- John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
- Romans 8:24-26 “In hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
- Romans 8:38,29 “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Colossians 1:11-14 “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
- Hebrews 13:5 “…God has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
- 1 John 4:16b,18a “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in the. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
Need a Bible? Here is a pretty cool online Bible