The sound of the jingling bells when you walk into the grocery store. The holiday music playing on the radio. There is certainly a lot of festive reminders that we are heading into the holiday season. Christmas. Boxing Day. New Years. They aren’t necessarily happy days for everyone. Holidays have a way of being poignant reminders because they serve as date reminders and potentially triggers for painful past events or grief waves. Even when we aren’t intentionally remembering something from the past, the dates associating with birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc. can serve as spring boards into waves of grief or loss.

So how do you get through the holiday season in the most helpful and effective way? Let’s look four strategic points that might help to ‘put in the stops’ and help carry you through the season.

  1. Validate your loss. Talk about it. If it’s grief from death, talk about your loved one. Often people don’t bring up the one we are missing, somehow thinking we won’t think of them unless they mention it. Not true! Your loved one is always on your mind, especially during the first year of Christmases, birthdays and special dates. If it’s grief from divorce, it’s important to validate the losses as well and talk it through with someone. Journalling can also be helpful.
  2. Validate your emotions. Acknowledge the losses you are experiencing and express your emotions. If you try to deny or stuff your emotions, you will find that you are only numbing and you end up checking out. This often leads to self-destructive behaviours and detachment. Stuffing your feelings does not make them go away, it only makes them go side ways.

3. Be kind to yourself. Even if your heart is broken, you can find simple ways to enjoy life. Find one little thing each day that you can be grateful for.  Soak in the things that are still around you — celebrate the aspects of your health that are good. Don’t forget the loved ones around you who are still there. Let them come alongside you and tell them what you need. Sometimes we just need to be with someone — staying at a friend’s home or sitting and watching a show — saying nothing. Notice the sounds, smells, tastes and sights around you. These can trigger sadness and that’s okay. They can also bring comfort and enjoyment. It’s okay to remember! It’s okay for you to smile and have feelings of happiness and joy, even though there is grief and sadness.

4. Give yourself a break! Be gracious to yourself and try to allow space/margin in your life. Place realistic expectations on yourself. If you struggle with this, consider what you would expect of your best friend and apply it to yourself — no double-standards! This is a hard time. Thankfully the pain of grief doesn’t last forever. If you don’t want to go to an event or party, don’t go. Ask yourself, “what am I up to doing now” as opposed to what ‘should’ I do? Working through grief is tiresome and fatiguing. Give yourself permission to take it easy.

Let me end with this meaningful prayer by Ted Loder which appears in ‘Guerrillas of Grace’,

O God of all seasons and senses,
grant us the sense of your timing
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

Some churches are starting to have “Blue Christmas” services — check online to see if you can find one in your local area.

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