For many, this season of the year is not "merry" at all. No, they are not the proverbial "bah-humbug" scrooges. Instead, they are in pain -- the pain of grief. And their pain is fueled by every nostalgic memory they encounter -- the empty chair, the special music, the cherished ornament on the tree. Our memories of holidays past when the parent, spouse, or child was still alive arouse an aching heart that no words can adequately describe.
Here are some suggestions for coping during the holidays:
- Yes, it will be hard... but you will make it through. Remember the countless others who face incalculable pain but have survived. So will you. Be easy on yourself. You don't have to have superhuman strength. Share your pain with others. Freely share your memories -- by doing so, healing gradually comes. Memories, like a scar, become a permanent part of our identity and remind us of loved ones. Cherish the memories -- hug them close for warmth. Remember, the only way out of grief is through it.
- Don't withdraw. Sure, some of your friends or family won't understand your pain and will say unfeeling things or maybe even worse -- will be silent. But, don't isolate yourself. Force yourself back out into the world. Give yourself permission to enjoy what you can about the holidays without feeling disloyal to the memory of your loved one. Go walking through the dark valley of the shadow and accompany them on their walk. Remember you are not crazy, it takes years to navigate through grief.
- Summon strength from your faith. Even when God seems distant or silent, can you claim the hope you have of resurrection and reunion? Our faith is our anchor in the dark, turbulent waves of emotional disarray as we deal with loss. Our God is our "very present help in time of trouble." Faith is the bird that sings in the darkest hours, sensing the dawn.