A few years ago I shared a post to encourage you if you are grieving at Christmas.
I wrote it at a time when I was grieving the loss of our dog, Emjay. Yes, he was a dog, but because we don’t have children and Emjay had been our fur child for 15 years, it was a time of deep grief for my husband and I.
Who could have imagined that just a few years later, so many of us would be coping with the grief of losing so many friends, family members and fellow human beings to a worldwide pandemic.
So this year, I want to encourage you to let yourself grieve.
Many of us try to be “strong” and hold ourselves together in front of others.
But I want to suggest that the point of gathering with family and friends during the holiday season is not to be fake and wear a mask and pretend like it isn’t hard, like you don’t miss your loved one.
The Bible says God is the God of all comfort, “who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV)
Whether you are in need of comfort or you are spending the holidays with someone else who is grieving, we are meant to comfort one another.
But what do I say?
When someone else is grieving, at Christmas or any other time of the year, it is hard to figure out exactly what to say.
We don’t want to say the wrong thing that could be insensitive or cause them more pain.
But from my personal experience it’s not always about what you say, the words you use, sometimes it’s just about acknowledging someone’s pain.
Simply saying “This must be a hard season for you. Please know that I don’t want you to feel like you have to worry about being a great host or putting on an ‘everything is alright’ mask for me. I am just grateful to share this time with you and if you want to talk, cry or just sit and enjoy each others company without talking about it - whatever you need is fine with me.”
Obviously I’m not trying to give you a script, but just an example of how you can acknowledge someone’s situation without forcing them to talk about it.
Everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace. But let us be comforters to them with the same comfort we receive from God ourselves.
God is patient with us. He listens. He isn’t scared of our tears. He whispers love through His Word and He is faithful to abide with us until our joy is restored.
But the person grieving is me.
What if you’re the person who needs comfort?
What if you feel like everyone is depending on you to host or attend the holiday festivities, but you just aren’t up to it this year?
I want to encourage you to release yourself from everyone else’s expectations.
If you usually host the Christmas dinner and just aren’t up to it, it’s okay to say so.
The family and friends who usually attend know what you have been through and I’m pretty sure they will be understanding if you need to ask for their support this year.
Ask someone else to host. Or open your home, but ask others to do all the cooking this year.
It’s okay to set boundaries around what you can emotionally handle. These people love you right? So they should understand if you share what you’re going through and tell them that this year you want to do things a little differently.
Grief is not something you can pause and then come back to after Christmas or New Years.
Trying to stuff down or hide what you feel isn’t healthy or fair to you. So set boundaries, ask others for help and plan ahead so that there is enough time for others to jump in and fill the “holiday roles” that you or your loved one won’t be taking on this year.
Give yourself permission to grieve. Give yourself permission to seek help. Give yourself permission to slow down and rest and spend the holidays renewing your spirit without the stress and pressure of keeping up appearances.
Celebrate in honor of someone who you’ve lost.
Giving yourself permission to grieve does not mean you can’t celebrate at the same time.
You can be sad and miss your loved one but also enjoy and celebrate the family and friends that are still here.
Have you ever smiled and cried at the same time?
I have. And they weren’t tears of joy. They were tears of sadness and a smile of gratefulness.
This year, there will be tears of sadness for my family and others who have lost people in the last few years. But I will also smile because I was blessed by those people and I am blessed to still have family and friends to gather with.
In that post I mentioned earlier, there is a timeless list of great ideas for ways to celebrate and remember loved ones at family gatherings during the Christmas season. I hope you’ll check it out and use one of the ideas to encourage yourself or someone who is grieving this year.