Music. Lights. Honeybaked Ham. Red Velvet Cake. Presents.
Laughing. Sharing. Reminiscing. Family.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…until it’s not. This year, my family will celebrate Thanksgiving without my grandmother. Mimi, we called her. Her ability to cook crazy good food was unrivaled. She was Picasso with a baking dish, and every year, during Thanksgiving, she put her art on full display. Dressing. Green Beans. Strawberry Cake. Pumpkin roll. Thanksgiving was to Mimi what Christmas is to the rest of us. She started weeks in advance, pouring her love into every dish.
This year, Thanksgiving will be different. Much different. Mimi won’t be there. My precious grandmother died two months ago. My family will still gather. We will still eat. But, this day, normally stuffed with hugs and food and football, will instead be stuffed with somberness and probably tears.
Many, in fact, enter the holidays with something less than excitement.
While everything around you says it’s a jolly fun season, you’d just assume remove November and December from the calendar. You dread the very thought of it.
For others, dealing with loss during the holidays is nothing new. You’ve traveled the trail of holiday grief for years.
Since we can’t remove this season from the calendar, how do we navigate it? Honestly, I’m not sure. I want to be upfront about that. But, in thinking about my own situation, I want to offer a few practical suggestions.
1. Trust that Grief is Part of Healing.
Every part of my being wants to escape the pain. I want to walk through the front door Thanksgiving Day and pretend everything’s okay. I want to avoid grief. But I know it’s detrimental to my joy. Avoiding the reality of my loss won’t take away my pain. It won’t take away yours, either.
Grief is medicine for the soul. Give yourself a gift the season— the space to grieve.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” Jesus says. Yes, grief is uncomfortable. But I choose to believe God meets me in my pain. I believe he will meet you too.
2. Create New Ways to Remember.
Traditions are powerful bridges. They span the gaps of time, from past to present. They keep us connected, as families and communities. They center us around what’s important. The holiday season is chopped full of traditions. Your family probably has them. Your church may have some as well.
But maybe it’s time to remove some bridges. They’re outdated. They no longer help you span the past and time healthily. Whatever the case, traditions can be altered or altogether removed.
In their place, build new bridges, ones that help you remember the person you’ve lost.
A few ideas:
– Serve someone. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Sometimes the biggest comfort is found in giving.
– Spend Christmas away from home, with your closest family. Maybe you trek up to the mountains. Or go on a cruise.
– Hang a special ornament to honor your loved one. Pull up an empty chair to the dinner table.
3. Take care of yourself.
The holidays are a wild ride, pulling us to and fro. It’s a grind, even under the best of circumstances. It’s even more important that you practice self-care. If some aspect of the holiday season is simply too hard, give yourself permission to say no. Let’s be honest, Christmas cards have always been a gross waste of time. You can definitely cut those out.
Surround yourself with people who give you life. If you can’t avoid the emotional leeches, set up boundaries, and be firm with them.
4. Fix your Eyes on Hope.
As the holidays approach, I can’t help but be excited that Advent is coming. It’s a time of anticipation that reminds us that Love is here, that darkness and evil and loss will soon meet their end, that we serve a God who is “with us.”
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” I Peter 1: 3-4
May the Lord go before each of us during this holiday season as we grieve, as we remember, as we celebrate.
Grace and peace, friends.