Coping with Grief during the Christmas Season
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
“It’s the most wonderful time of year”! Maybe you have heard that refrain from a Christmas song sung by Andy Williams. And while, yes, it is a wonderful time and a blessed time, for those who are grieving it can be a time of immense sadness. 2020 has brought with it another form of grief—grieving not being able to be with family, not going to our usual worship services, not gathering for Christmas parties, not going to stores to do Christmas shopping. This bonus December blog provides some thoughts about coping with loss during Advent and Christmas. Although this article deals with individuals grieving the loss of a loved one, some of the tips may be helpful for all of us as we are experiencing a new reality this year.
Be kind to yourself
Don’t beat yourself up about not having your usual Christmas. It may be too difficult to send out Christmas cards. You know what—that’s OK. Can’t bring yourself to put up all of the usual Christmas decorations? They can wait until next year… or the next year. Does looking at jolly Facebook posts from friends and family make you feel miserable? Take a break from social media until you feel ready to take a look. Don’t feel guilty about skipping events if you don’t feel up to it. Get plenty of rest, limit your sugar and alcohol intake, and go for a walk.
It is inevitable that this Christmas will be different. It is going to be hard. Tell people what you DO want to do and what you DON’T want to do. Let go of your perfectionism—this year Christmas will be what it is. Things may look different next year…or the next year…or the next year.
This is the year that you may decide to hold your Christmas gathering at a different location. You may wish to set a place setting for your loved one and put a candle or their Christmas stocking on their plate. Family members can talk about a special memory of him or her. I will share one thing that I did after my husband died. That first year as I was putting up my Christmas decorations, I came across the Santa hat that he wore when he distributed gifts. It made me sad to know he wouldn’t be there that year—or any year—to do that. I talked to him about it by way of the urn containing his ashes that is on my mantle and told him that and then it struck me. That Santa hat would fit nicely on that urn. So from that day forward, my husband is still a part of Christmas when he dons that Santa hat and oversees things from the mantle. (See picture.)
Reach out to others
Remember that friend who told you, “Call me if you need anything”? Now is the time to call that person—if you feel ready. Take part in volunteer activities at church or in the community. This year volunteer opportunities will look different, but they are there. Try having a FaceTime or Zoom gathering with friends and family. Let love from family and friends into your life.
Talk about him or her
Share stories and memories about your loved one with friends and family members. You may laugh, you may cry, but you will remember. If you don’t feel ready to do this yet, that’s OK. You could try writing memories in a journal instead.
Stay connected with the Lord
I get it. You might be mad at God—I know that I was. Staying connected is especially important when you don’t feel like it. You might feel forgotten by people, but you aren’t forgotten by the Lord. God is here. He sees you grieving. He wants to comfort you. Ask Jesus to grant you His grace, hope, love, peace, and comfort this holiday season. Then don’t fight His help. Pray.
Everyone grieves differently. There is no one right way to grieve. Do what is right for you.
Do you need help?
• If you need a listening ear, feel free to email me to set up a time to visit by phone: firstname.lastname@example.org or you may contact me through the church office: 507 288 6430
• You may contact the pastors through the church office: 507 288 6430
• Seasons Hospice has many resources including group and individual grief support sessions. Contact them at 507 285 1930. I encourage you to check their website https://www.seasonshospice.org/grief-support and view the video “Managing the Holidays” and the accompanying handout.
• A Tsunami of Grief: Loss and Hope https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2IM4tp_u2s
• Websites with a variety of resources:
Stay tuned for upcoming information about a Grief Discussion/Support Group in January 2021.
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. (2018). 5 ways to handle grief, loneliness during the holidays. https://billygraham.org/story/5-ways-to-handle-grief-loneliness-at-christmastime/
Stoelting, S.R. (n.d.). Coping with grief at Christmas. https://www1.cbn.com/familyadvice/coping-with-grief-at-christmas
Williams, L. (2013). 64 tips for coping with grief at the holidays. https://whatsyourgrief.com/64-tips-grief-at-the-holidays/