Less than 2 weeks after my son died we walked through our first holiday without him.
This new reality of life and loss and navigating grief was in it’s infancy and we were desperately clinging to our old “normal.” “Normal” felt like an anchor that would keep us steady and safe and afloat. In a world of that suddenly felt as if it was spinning wildly out of control, “normal” gave the illusion of control.
But nothing about our life was normal anymore. We weren’t even living in our own home because I couldn’t go back to a place that reeked of death.
That first Thanksgiving, just shy of two weeks after my son died, was incredibly difficult. I so badly wanted a “normal” Thanksgiving, one without the pain or the pity, one without the stares or awkward silences or elephant in the room that was me and our horrific loss.
I remember standing in the middle of my mom’s kitchen watching all the conversations happen around me as if I were on the outside looking in at something I used to know and live and understand but suddenly feeling like I would never be able to partake in again — wondering if I would feel this way forever.
I wish I could look you in the eyes and gently whisper to you: “I see you. I know how deeply your heart is aching. I know how badly you just want a “normal” holiday, one where the only anxious thoughts are what gifts to buy and how you ate too much turkey. I know how badly you want normal right now but more than that I know how much you actually just need the grace to grieve, whatever that looks like for you and your family.” Below are a few thoughts on what grace amidst grief looks like through the holidays.
GRACE TO GRIEVE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Acknowledge that it will be hard.
Chasing “normal” doesn’t give room or grace or freedom to acknowledge that it will be hard. I’m telling you, it will be hard. Maybe not all of it and for all of the time but when your heart is broken, your heart is broken and no amount of turkey or stuffing or Christmas carols or gifts will fix that. Knowing that it will be hard, acknowledging the heartache gives you the freedom to feel the pain and not be afraid of it and to likewise enjoy the sweet moments of joy even more.
Determine what would be most helpful and meaningful to you.
Doing what you’ve always done for the holidays may not be what’s best this year. Maybe you need to be with close extended family or maybe you need time with just your immediate family. Maybe you need to stay home or maybe you need to get out of town. Either way, think and pray through this decision. Do your best to make this decision intentionally about what would best serve you right now amidst your grief. Making decisions to try and make everyone else happy doesn’t actually serve others in this situation. It will only build resentment and bitterness in your heart during this season. And I’m certain that those you are trying to please want nothing more than for you to find meaningful peace and joy when walking through this grief.
Give yourself the grace to change your mind.
You may not know what is most helpful or most meaningful until you are in the middle of what is not helpful or meaningful. Give yourself the grace to say “this isn’t working, I need to go home now” or “I thought I wanted to be alone but I think I really need to be my family.” No one can read your mind, not even your spouse, so say it aloud, with grace, and then feel the freedom to change the plans.
Communicate how you are feeling.
Feel the freedom to invite those around you into the pain. We often shy away from communicating the pain or overwhelm simply because we don’t want another to feel that grief, but the truth is those around us who love us are hurting too and they want to know how you are doing and how they can help, so invite them in.
Praying for you right now and throughout this holiday season.