My husband, Cliff, died in October and the world still celebrated Thanksgiving in November. I was outraged. Christmas came and people were laughing and shopping like nothing had happened. I walked around like a zombie wondering how all of these strangers could be so heartless. I attended a school Christmas concert alone and sat behind a couple who were bickering and nagging at each other the entire time. This is the honest truth before God. I reached forward and tapped both of them on the shoulder and asked them to stop fussing or leave. I explained that I had just lost my husband a month before and that it made me want to do physical injury to them because they were squandering precious time together that it looked like they didn’t even deserve. Needless to say, I cleared the area. LOL! Not my most grace-filled moment but authentic!
Loss and grief can cause wonderful times of the year to become unbearable. If the loss is fresh, you don’t know how you will feel. If the loss isn’t fresh, you know you are going to feel bad. Either way it stinks. Here are some holiday-surviving lessons I have learned over the last 9 years:
- Don’t try to keep all the previous traditions right away. It’s kind of like our new “nutritional plan.” We had to give up milk and now we drink almond milk. You can’t take a big swig of the new milk expecting it to taste like regular milk. You drink almond milk, expecting it to be good but different. You can’t fill the missing place your loved one left. Things will not be the same. It doesn’t work to try to do all the same traditions and events expecting them to feel right. Your loved one is gone. It changes things. You may eventually be able to go back to the old tradition, but give yourself some space to heal.
- Make new traditions to honor and remember your loved one. We watch 3 Stooges movies and eat pop tarts. I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to be your new tradition, but it works for us! Think of something new that you can do that brings back good memories and make that a tradition.
- Do something for others even if you don’t feel like it. I love to find projects or help families in need during Christmas because Cliff loved giving himself and money to others. I intentionally give and help because it makes me feel better. I know it is right and biblical, but it really does comfort me more than those I am helping.
- Give yourself a pass. You don’t have to do it all. You only have so much emotional energy. Right after a loss and during times that are hard (like Christmas) you are drained. Some days it is almost too much to lift your arm to brush your teeth. So don’t! (Well, maybe try but if you can’t we will understand.) Loving people will try to tell you what you need to do and they don’t always know what is best. My favorite line to a sweet well-meaning older lady who was telling me what I should be doing right after Cliff died was, “That is so weird. I thought God’s voice would be deeper!” Hee hee!
We don’t grieve as those who don’t have hope (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), but we do grieve. Embrace the comfort and grace God offers.
Share a new tradition you will put in place to honor your loved one and help you and your family THRIVE, not just survive during the holidays.