Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 NIV
Grief at Christmas
Christmas will soon be upon us. She will be gone two years by then. Only now am I sensing the permanency of our final goodbyes. Most of the words we wanted to say were left unspoken. They simply were not enough, hidden behind tears and a whisper or two.
Curling my fingers around hers, I held on tightly. Her strength was gone. She was leaving this life she had known for 77 years to enter what would be her forever home. I wanted to walk with her, to hold onto her, for a moment longer. But my grip was not strong enough; she was determined to finish her journey without me. And so, she slipped away, leaving me indescribably lonely. How could I know that once she was gone, I would be left feeling like an orphan? No one warned me of that one.
In the last few months, the fog has begun to lift. How I wish it would return and envelop me in the blanket of denial that came to feel comfortably warm and familiar. While I was unable to deny the stark reality of her absence, I could ignore the deep pain it caused me. During the holiday season, I could focus my attention on decorating and shopping for gifts. Better not forget to make a list and check it twice. No need to shop for mom; that’s right. She’s gone.
Saying the words, “She’s gone” stings as much today as it did two years ago. For those of you who have experienced the deep pain of losing a loved one, the holidays can be especially difficult. Nothing in life can prepare us for the deep loss we feel when they are gone.
Grief is unpredictable. It gives us no warning when its waves come crashing over us. There is no set schedule for grief’s stages. It is different for everyone. Society will tell us that we need to move on, not get stuck, and don’t stay there for too long. Friends and family members may not know how to handle our pain. They struggle to find adequate words to comfort us and soothe our hurting souls.
Allowing ourselves to grieve is necessary for our healing. During the holiday season, we can learn to balance moments of sorrow with those of joy and celebration. By allowing ourselves to acknowledge the empty seat at the dinner table, we can then embrace the memories of days gone by and cherish those in the making. It is imperative that we resist the urge to isolate. Being with others can be a source of great encouragement, especially when our pain is overwhelming.
He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:4 CSB
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Grieving in Changing Times
Christmas 2020 has been hijacked by a pandemic and politics. It seems we don’t know what to do with it. Adjusting to changes in how we live is front and center these days. Focusing on the loss of a loved one may seem next to impossible. I keep shifting my feelings of grief to the back burner. The constant chatter going on inside and outside of my head leaves me with little time and even less energy to deal with my lingering sadness. I have found busyness is the perfect analgesic when attempting to avoid grief’s sting. But numbing our pain is not coping with it and only postpones our healing.
So how do we allow ourselves to mourn our departed loved ones while trying to make the holidays special for those who are still with us? It can feel selfish to have a good cry when we should be counting our blessings.
Recently, I asked a group of women I know to share with me how they cope with loss and grief during the holiday season and every day. Because they are members of my online support group for women whose loved one’s struggle with addiction, many have lost their child to overdose. Their grief is unbearable, yet they have found light and hope amidst deep sorrow. Others have lost spouses, parents, or other family members to illness or accidents. All understand your pain and were generously willing to share what they have learned along the way. Here is their advice.
- Accept that nothing will ever be the same. The loss of a loved one, especially a child, parent, or spouse, leaves a huge hole in our hearts.
- Accept that this side of eternity we may never understand why the Lord allowed our loved one to die. We can only ask Him to help us trust him with our unanswered questions.
- Expect unexpected emotions. One mom put it well when she said, “I feel like I am wearing a corset that needs to be tightened daily. I tend to get thru difficult situations and then crash! Crash badly!”
- Understand that grief brings with it a wide range of emotions as well as memories, some good and some bad. It is normal to feel sad one minute and be laughing the next.
- Know that you will miss them every day. It will be better somedays and harder on others.
- Be aware that family and friends you thought would be there for you might abandon you due to their own pain or because they feel ill-equipped to help. Others will step up in unexpected ways and be a source of rich encouragement.
- Remember your loved one. Embrace their memories. Tell their stories. Honor them with a place at the dinner table or a photograph. Plan a holiday tradition that allows you the opportunity to celebrate their life. Place a special ornament on the tree to honor them.
- For those who believe their loved one is with the Lord, they find healing and comfort in knowing they will be reunited in Heaven.
- Get grief counseling and support. It’s important to talk about and share your story with others. Practice self-care. Get rest, exercise, and eat well.
- Cling to Jesus and His word. He is the source of our comfort.
What a blessing to know we are not alone on this journey. We have Jesus, those who love us, and we have hope. It is my prayer that as you navigate grief’s unchartered waters, you will rest in the assurance that our Lord is with you always. May these promises in his word strengthen you and be a rich source of comfort for you during this holiday season and always.
30 Bible Verses for Grief
So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22 NIV
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NIV
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NIV
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 NIV
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26 NIV
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1 NIV
This is my comfort in my affliction: Your promise has given me life. Psalm 119:50 CSB
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26 ESV
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 NIV
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 NIV
You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. Job 11:18 NIV
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV
Jesus wept. John 11:35
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21b NIV
Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 NKJV
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Psalm 119:76 ESV
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:3 NLT
My God turned my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28 NIV
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NIV
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 NIV
You have recorded my troubles. You have kept a list of my tears. Aren’t they in your records? Psalm 56:8 ESV
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2 NKJV
My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26 NKJV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, ad he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is revealed to us. Romans 8:18 ESV
We are hurting. We miss those we love. How we long to hold them for just a little while longer. Thank you for not leaving us comfortless. Thank you for holding us when we hurt. So often we feel alone and, in self-protection, we isolate even further. Teach us to ask for help and to call on those you have placed in our lives to help us through this. Thank you for your peace that passes all understanding. We rejoice in hope because you are our hope. Amen.