For so many people the Holidays are anything but bright and cheery or joy-filled. For those who have experienced the loss of a child or grief in any way, this time of year can almost act as a magnifying glass on those already deep emotions. I wanted to spend today sharing a few ways that we not only cope with Christmas time but actually maintain joy through this always tough season.
Remember the Reason for the Season- We choose to turn our eyes to the One who we are celebrating this time of year. I have found it incredibly helpful to focus on the Lord when I feel like my emotions are overtaking me, my heart clings to this verse: "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 He is everpresent in my grief, He hasn't left me to travel through it alone. That verse and fact are always comforting.
Do Things in Remembrance- This is something that we have tried to do ever since losing our daughter Savannah. The beauty of this is that it can be anything that brings you healing, from donating to an organization that was helpful for you or your loved one, writing their name in the sand at the beach, filling an Operation Christmas child box in their memory, making an ornament with their name on it, leaving an empty seat at the table or even lighting a candle for them. Every Christmas we hang up Savannah's Christmas stocking, decorate her little tree, and include her name on our Christmas card. She will always be a part of our family and it is helpful for us to see her name this time of year.
Ride the Waves- I'm sure you have heard the expression that grief comes in waves. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given was to ride with those waves. So often I would try to fight with them; fight the emotions that surfaced and try to push them down. Only to end up drowning in them later on. I've learned and am still learning to allow myself to feel things as they come, and work through the triggers that so often come along with the Holidays. I have found that when I allow myself the freedom to feel sad, angry, disappointed, hurt or whatever current state I'm in, peace usually follows. Because just like the ocean, you will have days that the seas are rough and then the calm will follow. So hang on, and ride through it.
Schedule Fun- I'm sure if you are deep in your grief having fun is the last thing you'd think you are capable of. But I promise you, you can do it and it will help! I use the word schedule because sometimes this time of year it can be hard to just spontaneously fit things in. Plan a winter date night, drive around after dark to look at the lights, drink too much hot cocoa, treat yourself to a pedicure or massage, plan a family vacation, or invite friends over for a game night. Whatever will bring you the most happiness; schedule it, put it on your calendar, and DO IT! Grief is the thief of joy- but it doesn't have to be. Just because you are grieving doesn't mean that you don't deserve to also have a break and have some fun.
Be Transparent- As we navigate through our loss it is difficult to remember that others can't necessarily see how deep our pain is or know what we need during this trigger-filled season. If we are transparent with our emotions it will allow our friends and families to see how best they can help. That being said, I know how hard it is to do this. It is much easier to close off and expect people to just know what to say or do. However, when we are open and share we are almost always met with someone willing to listen. I have seen this to be true in my own life, especially around the Holidays.
Be Gentle with Yourself- This time of year is hard enough without us adding pressure to ourselves. So, choose joy but also choose you. Allow yourself to say "it's ok to not be ok", to not commit to every holiday event or party, to order Chinese food for Christmas dinner, or not take the perfect Holiday card picture. Wherever this year takes you, go with it and remember that this is a season and it soon will come to an end, so be gentle with yourself through it.
I hope that this has been helpful. I know how hard this time of year is, and trust me I am still very much working through emotions as well. I will probably have to reference my own writing and talk to myself as new triggers arise this year. Our first Christmas out of our Florida home and state where we welcomed our sweet Savannah Joy. I find myself struggling with that thought, and yet at the same time, I am so thankful for the traditions we have started that we get to carry on here in Ohio. Her stocking is hung and will serve as a constant reminder for us this season that though there will be immense grief and longing, there can also be unspeakable joy!