C.S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”. Unfortunately, Grief is not a tidy nor orderly process. As each person is unique, so is the grieving process. In the midst of the holidays, a wide range of emotions may arise therefore; it is helpful to talk about situations that may cause emotional distress and gain support toward progressing in your journey of grief.
Identifying triggers can allow awareness toward preparing yourself to feel a wide range of emotions. It is not uncommon to feel joy, guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Helen Fitzgerald states that “grief that is expressed is grief that we can live with; grief that is suppressed is grief that will rise up to haunt us, surprise us, and shape our lives in ways we cannot control”. We, as humans, are designed to live in the midst of community therefore, it is important to surround yourself with people who love and support you. Romans 12:15 states that we “mourn with those who mourn”. Therefore, consider sharing your plans with family and friends and allowing them to know of any intended changes in the holiday routine this year. Additionally, creating a new tradition may also be a way to incorporate your loved one into celebrating this holiday season. Some examples of a new ritual and tradition may include –
- Create a memory box. You could fill it with photos of your loved one or written memory notes from family members and friends. Young children could include their drawings in the memory box.
- Light a candle in honor of your absent loved one.
- Put a bouquet of flowers on your holiday table in memory of your loved one.
- Place a commemorative ornament on the Christmas tree.
- Play your loved one’s favorite music or favorite game.
- Plan a meal with your loved ones’ favorite foods.
In the midst of holiday gatherings, consider equipping yourself for the unexpected by talking about situations that may cause distress beforehand. In advance, by preparing a set of short, simple responses to inevitable questions may further assist in the grieving process and help manage conversations. Most importantly, exhale and take care of yourself. Avoid utilizing alcohol to self medicate your mood. Physical exercise can often serve as a healthy antidote for depression. Writing in a journal can also be a benefiting outlet for your grief.
Be gentle with yourself and take heart in knowing that “…He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us” (2 Corinthians 1:3 – 4, MSG).