Grieving Through the Holidays

written by Julie Grant
12 · 05 · 22

The thought of facing the holidays with a heart heavy from the burden of grief can be overwhelming. After losing my husband, John, suddenly and unexpectedly in July of 2018, I clearly remember just wanting to fast forward to January as the holidays approached. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fast-forward or even a pause button for grief. Surviving the holidays while grieving is much like surviving life while grieving; it is done one day, one step, or even one breath at a time. While I have been unable to find any way to avoid the holidays, I have found some tools that have helped me navigate them. 

  1. Honest, open communication with your family and friends is vital. Let your family know your limits and desires and listen to theirs when they do the same. We usually hosted Thanksgiving at our home, and most of the preparations fell upon me. I was very upfront with our extended family that first year. I would help with Thanksgiving preparations but neither host nor do most of the cooking. I had gone back to work and simply did not have the energy or desire to do it. Well, nobody else did either, so we ended up eating out. It worked for us at that time. Then, with Christmas fast approaching, my youngest son expressed a desire to decorate and embrace the season that he knew his Daddy loved so much. You have to remember; it isn’t all about you. Even though I wanted to crawl under a rock, I could tell he needed to be saturated in the many beautiful memories of the holidays gone by. God met us right there in our sorrowful celebration of the birth of His Son. 
  2. Anticipate the land mines of grief that may take your feet out from under you and plan accordingly. Concerning the many invitations that come during the holiday season, give yourself some grace. You may be having a good day when you accept an invitation, but when the day of the event rolls around, you might be in the absolute throes of messy grief. When you receive invitations, alert your hosts that this might be possible and offer to bring a salad if asked to contribute to the meal. They may hunt you down for your famous cheesecake, but does anybody ever miss a salad? If you can attend, drive yourself or go with a trusted friend who understands that you may need to leave abruptly. The most alone I have ever felt after losing John was when I was surrounded by people celebrating. It can be overwhelmingly lonely. Anticipate this possibility. Scope out a secluded spot to regroup or make a quiet exit if you need to. 
  3. Look for ways to bless others. One of the most healing things I have ever done to mitigate grief is to shift my gaze outward from my pain to others’ needs. This has always offered a double blessing. I may help to meet the actual needs of others, but I am made much more aware of the many ways God has blessed me. Also, grief can make you very empathetic to others who are also grieving; never hesitate to reach out. The memory of praying with a man in the food pantry who was at rock bottom after the loss of his son will always be precious to me. It wouldn’t have been possible had I not simply asked him about his tears. 
  4. Joy and sorrow can coexist. As far as I have been able to discern, there is a wistfulness that will always linger on the big days, but that does not mean it must overshadow joy. The two can intermingle most beautifully, like two sides of the same coin, and that coin is Love. 

I pray you will be held in the arms of your Father during this season, and you will be able to give thanks for the gift of the life that had been shared with you and the strength to live the life you have been given. There is no better way to glorify your Father in heaven. 

God is GOOD ~ ALL the time!

Julie is the author of  “Streams of Light from a Heart Broken”.

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Author

Julie Grant

Julie Grant, the widow of John, has been an emergency room nurse for more than thirty-three years. She has two sons and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. When not in the ER, Grant enjoys walking with her dog Pishwit and searching for the beauty that God has hidden everywhere on her path. Grant published “Streams of Light from a Heart Broken” in 2022; it is a narrative walk through grief in real-time. Her greatest hope is that the reading will lessen the reader’s burden of grief and that God will be glorified through the offering.

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