By Tim Frank
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Carthage
Recently, the staff of one of the local funeral homes in our county hosted their annual “Hope for the Holidays” service and invited me to share a word of hope and practical help to those in attendance who had lost loved ones.
The holidays can be very difficult for an individual or a family as they grieve during this season which is normally filled with festivities and joy.
Here are 10 practical suggestions I share with those who have lost loved ones. May these thoughts be of help and comfort during this Christmas season.
• The holidays are a time to lean into your grief and find the comfort God brings. The Bible says in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Grief is the price you pay for loving someone. It is normal to grieve when a loved one has died. Allow yourself to grieve.
• Realize and acknowledge that the holidays will never be the same again. Don’t pretend and go through the motions like nothing has happened. In the loss of a loved one, things will never be the same again. There can be healing and a new normal, but without your loved one things will not be the same.
• Some find that writing down a holiday plan can be helpful. A plan allows you to prioritize and plan the many activities, events and gatherings. This year, you may not be able to do everything. A plan will help sort through what stays and what goes. It may even mean that some new traditions will be established.
• Be ready for the emotional ambushes that may occur. These outbursts of emotion are often triggered by the sights, smells and settings which remind you of Christmas spent with your loved one.
• You may want to remember your loved one in a special way during family gatherings. Perhaps you may want to create a memorial spot, such as an area with a lit candle, a poinsettia or a picture. Such a remembrance acknowledges your loved one and gives others “permission” to share the memories they have of the person.
• Avoid isolating yourself from others during the holidays. It may be tempting to skip Christmas this year and hibernate by yourself until Jan. 1. However, there is comfort and encouragement in being together with those you love. If you go to another person’s home, you may want to drive, just in case you begin to feel overwhelmed and need to leave early.
• Hold your holiday plans loosely and reserve the right to change as needed. In grief, there are no “right” or “wrong” ways of doing Christmas. Every person is unique and your relationship with the deceased person was unique. The way you experience and express grief will also be unique. Don’t allow others to try to push you into their opinions of what you “ought” to do or feel.
• It’s okay to enjoy the holidays without your loved one. As you spend time with family and friends, there may be laughter, singing and smiles. That does not dishonor the memory of your deceased loved one. Be thankful and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Embrace and cherish your family and friends
• Draw close to Jesus during the holidays. Spend extra time alone with God in prayer and Bible reading. Find the comfort that only He can bring to your soul. You may want to read through the Psalms and find the strength of the Lord in your grief or the Christmas stories found in Matthew and Luke.
• In your quiet time with God, you may find it helpful to make a list of your blessings for which you are thankful. In grief, it is easy to become focused on your loss and fail to realize all you have for which to be thankful.
Christmas is a celebration of God’s greatest gift, His greatest blessing to mankind; the birth of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Christmas has been called the sufferer’s holiday for in it is the hope we have in this life and in the life to come. Jesus spoke to grieving people at the tomb of His friend in John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus is the hope you are seeking. He is hope for your holiday. He is hope for your life. He is the hope for eternity. B&R