Falling leaves. Burnt orange and gold sunsets. Crisp winds. Apple cider. Pumpkin pie. Football games. Roasting marshmallows over the fire. Hayrides. Hot chocolate. Warm scarves. Boots and cuffs. Harvest time. Family traditions.
A favorite time of year can quickly become painful when your heart hurts during the holidays. When the pain of losing a loved one overshadows the excitement of celebrating. When anxiety replaces anticipation and you stuff it back down inside so the pain is hidden from outward appearance. When you wonder how you’ll survive another holiday when every memory of that holiday is attached to your loved one.
Most of us have all been touched by sorrow and loss in some way. The grieving process is a long, rocky road where sunshine doesn’t begin to touch the sorrow. During the freshest pain at the beginning of our road is full of friends reaching out, bringing dinners, and remembering you in their prayers. But as the days go by and the newness of grief wears away, you appear fine and people assume you are doing fine.
Friends return to their daily routines and you feel neglected, wondering if you are going through the phases of grief too slowly or not slow enough. If they can return to their normal life, why can’t you?
The truth is, if we hide our pain, people can’t begin to help us. They don’t know we are still hurting and most importantly, they don’t know how to help. Grief takes time. Losing a loved one is a process, and learning to live again without connecting with that person on a daily basis is hard.
Kellie Haddock spoke of grief as an “ebb and flow”, and I thought that to be true of my own pain as well. Some days are ok and others are still so painful, I find myself gasping for breath through the tears at a sudden memory.
Every person’s journey of grief is different but each of us need to let the tears fall when the sadness overwhelms us. Don’t hide the pain or stuff it back down so no one sees. Let it out. Cry. Write. Sing. Bake. Whatever your outlet is, let the pain out.
An ancient custom among the Greeks and Romans was to preserve their tears in a bottle. When they lost a loved one, they stored their tears in a bottle of glass or clay to lay at the tomb where their loved one was buried or placed (if it was a tomb). They used this method to measure and remember their grief. David mentions this in his Psalm, chapter 56, verse 8:
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
David is saying that just like the ancient custom, God has kept track of him and his sorrows and He remembers them. God collects our tears in a bottle so one day, He can wipe them away (Revelation 21:4). David is saying God knows what’s going on and He hasn’t forgotten His children or lost track of what’s happened to them.
You don’t have to be strong all the time. Grieve the loss of your loved one and grieve well. Know the Lord sees you where you are and He cares about you and your pain. Let His Holy words and the Holy Spirit comfort you when no one else can.
Spend time in Psalms, searching for Scriptures to comfort you. Here are a few of my favorites–Psalm 23, Psalm 30, Psalm 34:18, Psalm 40:1-2, and Psalm 7:26.
Dear friend, If you’re hurting this holiday season, here are some ways to help you in your own grieving process:
- Share your pain. If you hide your hurting heart, no one can help you. Know that the pain is ok and if you reach out to someone, chances are, that person has suffered the same great loss or knows someone else who has. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
- Speak up. Tell your closest friends you’re having a difficult time. You don’t have to be a super hero and suffer in silence. Let them meet your physical needs so you can focus on your grief. Laundry is piling up and you can’t drag yourself from your dark place long enough to switch a load over? Let your friend help. Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
- Store your memories. Writing has always been an outlet for me, a way to express my emotions. Keep a diary and record memories of your loved one. Write down verses that comfort you because one day, you’ll share your story with someone else who is grieving and you’ll want to give them those verses that helped you. You’ll be able to share how God has delivered you from your pain and suffering.
If you know someone who has recently lost a loved one, share this with them. Give them hope through the holidays. Welcome them into your home. Let them know you are thinking of them and praying for them but most importantly, meet their physical needs. Don’t ask them what they need, because chances are they’ll turn you down. Just do it. Just show up in their time of grieving and wash a load of laundry. Clean their bathroom. Drop off a dinner. Take their kids for a couple hours so they can just grieve and not have to be so strong all the time. Send them a card in the mail to let them know you care.
What about your friend who lost a loved one 3 years ago? Or 10 years ago? Or 20 years ago? They probably still have times of ebb and flow when their grief comes and goes. Remember them too and send a card or text. We have all been somehow affected by grief so let’s show one another how much we care this holiday season.