Grief During the Holidays
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all… Psalm 34:18-19 NIV
“Our joys will be greater, our love will be deeper, our life will be fuller because we shared your moment.” – Author Unknown
Holidays are such a great joy but they can also be a bottomless pit of despair when grieving. When my husband was in a care center with his Lewy body dementia, there were many who had no one. So, I shared holiday lights and chocolate along with my affectionate English Cocker (such a ham!) with the patients. I bought drinks for the all the staff during their holiday dinner. Then I went home and cried buckets into my pillow while my little dog gave me comforting licks. My husband was alive but no longer with me. But so many at the care home hugged me and said many comforting things to ease the burden. Not what I wanted but what was available. Jesus said from the cross, “Woman, here is your son. Son, behold your mother.”
Please be a light to someone grieving during the holidays. It doesn’t take much.
Here’s what may happen to the bereaved. The loneliness and pain during the holidays intensifies the grief:
Many become addicted to food, alcohol, drugs, spending, suicidal ideation and more. I believe addiction is a search for love, belonging, safety and acceptance—we all need and search for this. The grief stricken can’t feel this—not for a time. I see this so vividly in the elderly and parents who have lost a child.
A caring person does not judge but checks in with the bereaved because loneliness is such a hellish part of grief—empty bed-no mealtime banter-songs that rip the heart out—holidays are the worst! My first Christmas after my husband died was bleak, empty and tear-filled. I couldn’t wait for Christmas to end! Sometimes faith is shattered. This is not the time to Bible thump. Your private prayer will work wonders. A hug and a little presence will too.
A caring person builds trust and is safe for the grieving person to unload their tremendous burden. Rational thinking may not be there for some time. It’s another part of the grieving process. They will question everything they did or did not do, as if they could’ve prevented the death. Just reassure.
A caring person may take them to lunch, a movie or bring a homemade meal. Shovel the walk. Walk their dog. Tell them a story about their deceased loved one. They matter. They need to find purpose.
A caring person will not take outbursts of anger personally. A time out is okay. Anger is part of the grieving process and part of healing, especially in the beginning.
A caring person will check in with a grief counselor, hospice, pastor or someone qualified, should the grief be destroying the grief stricken. They may be suffering from Complicated Grief or trauma. Listen to the experts and do what they advise.
If your gut tells you they need emergency help, call 911 or a suicide hotline. I’d rather look foolish and bear their anger than lose them.
It’s not easy. If it were, we’d all be a caring person.
The golden rule applies. Think: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Then do it. If the bereaved doesn’t know what they need or want, just say, “I’m going to do such-and-such. Is that okay with you?” You don’t know. You could save a life. You could save their faith. You could validate the most important thing: they are loved. They are valued. They matter. We are to weep with those who weep. Someday, we too, will weep and in the future the Father will wipe every tear from our eyes.
Jesus prayed before his crucifixion:
“My prayer is not for them alone [his disciples]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-26)