Posted in Grief

Go Away, Grief! It’s Christmas

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Even at Christmas, losses still occur. Goodbyes become reality. Grief pays you a visit. Yes, even at Christmas.

It fastens itself to you and holds on tightly, accompanying you to every Christmas party, shopping trip, and candlelight service. This unwelcome guest becomes part of you, and part of your Christmas. Like it or not.

It threatens to drain your joy. It desires to consume your thoughts. It demands your full attention. It guilts you into believing happiness should never again be yours. Not even at Christmas.

Grief is a natural response to loss. We should never be ashamed of our grief, nor should we feel pressured to rush it along. Although it looks differently for each of us, one thing is certain: we all encounter it at some point.

So how are we to face Christmas – and any other day for that matter – with grief as our companion? How do we push through? How do we keep on living in spite of it?

Friends, I know of no better way to navigate through grief than to immerse myself into the word of God. In the days and weeks following my brother’s death, this passage continually stood out to me:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.    2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

He is the Father of compassion; the God of all comfort. How I needed to hear this. To remember this. To know this for myself. To be reminded of God’s goodness, and to understand He would comfort me through every problem I faced, even when it involved a goodbye I wasn’t ready to give. Yes, He was there. Yes, He cared.

And then I found purpose: I was not alone in my mourning. With the comfort God had shown me, I would someday console another whose heart was grieving.

Though it wasn’t easy, I crawled out of bed, finished shopping, wrapped gifts, and celebrated Christmas as best I could. I surrounded myself with family and close friends. I thought of Jesus. I pictured my brother sitting with Him, having the best Christmas ever.

Friends, if grief has invited itself to your Christmas this year, acknowledge it. Sit down with it. Open your bible to it. Find verses that speak comfort and hope to your heart. Press them firmly into your grief.

As you stand to your feet, may God’s peace and strength begin to steady you. May you be comforted. May you perceive the love and beauty encircling you. It is there, even in the midst of your grief. It is there, because He is there. And He cares.

 

Posted in Grief

Getting Through Christmas

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Not too long ago money was scarce in my home. I’m talking practically non-existent. My husband’s thriving business suffered greatly during the recession, causing us to lose much of what he had worked so hard to provide.

With our bank account empty, even the most basic necessities such as toilet paper, toothpaste, and shampoo were tough to come by. And splurging on extras -you know, those wonderful things we typically take for granted such as koolaid, Little Debbie snack cakes, and the dollar menu at the local fast food restaurant- all of those quickly became a thing of the past. And certainly, if we couldn’t afford those small treats, you can imagine where we stood with our bigger, more important obligations.

We had hit rock bottom, and it hurt. We had never been at a lower point, financially or emotionally.

And then along came Christmas.  Not only one, but two, and then three Christmases with us barely scraping by.

This reality, followed closely by two back to back December goodbyes, wreaked havoc on my emotions – and my Christmas spirit.  Instead of excitement, I felt anxious over the gifts I couldn’t buy, the expectations I couldn’t meet, and the loved ones I couldn’t hug. I simply wished to hide away and skip the whole season of Christmas and all its merriment.

I remember vividly how my heart ached as I passed through those days. The uncertainties. The confusion. The disbelief. The sheer panic over the very real possibility of losing my home.  The heavy dread of facing Christmas with one or two fewer loved ones at the table.

Those years were tough; surviving those Christmases was even tougher. Yet here I am, hoping to encourage others walking a similar path. Those who view Christmas as more of a chore than a celebration; who are holding their breath, wishing to skirt past December unscathed.

Friend, if you are that person, may I share with you some of what has helped me?

First of all, it is so freeing to admit you are not strong enough, and you don’t have to be. Secondly, accepting help offered by others teaches you humility and brings a wonderful blessing to you both. Thirdly, learning to rely on God’s truth and promises is absolutely vital for it is there you begin to understand how much He truly loves you.

You see, if we operate in our own strength, sooner or later we give out. But if we allow the precious people God has placed in our lives to encourage, love, and support us, we are strengthened. And if we lean into God as we would a close friend, we sense His presence. And in His presence, our hearts begin to mend and our fears dissipate.

We learn God can be trusted.

We learn He is faithful.

We learn He will graciously meet us where we are …  even when He finds us cautiously playing hide and seek with Christmas.

 

 

Posted in Grief

When Grief Takes You By Surprise

 

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Have you ever had one of those days where all seems well and, without warning, you run straight into a wall of grief?  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that. And it never ceases to surprise me.

I’m amazed at how the smallest thing can trigger such a big wave of grief.   You may notice someone who resembles that person you’re missing.  Or maybe you hear that certain song on the radio, or you spy that particular hat he would have loved.  It could be stumbling upon that familiar place, only to realize it’s not the same without your loved one there with you.

Or perhaps it’s that dreaded date on the calendar. The one that marks another passing month, one more year gone by, or some other significant event without his presence.  You see the date approaching but try as you might, you can’t pause time or skip over it.  You must face it, whether you’re ready or not.

That’s how it is for me today.  It’s been three years since my brother passed away.  His death was unexpected.  Had I known it was coming, I would have said so much more.  I would have asked for one more hug, and I would have cherished it. I would have stayed by his side until the very end. But I didn’t know, so I failed to do some things I now wish I had done.  Sometimes it still bothers me.

I hate that we didn’t share a last goodbye, but I am comforted in knowing I will see him again.  Yes, when my life here is complete, he’ll be waiting for me inside heaven’s gate, grinning from ear to ear. That’s good to know, especially on days like today.

So when grief suddenly grabs hold of me, I will allow myself to feel its presence.  I will use it to unlock my deepest thoughts of that special person.  I will smile, and possibly even laugh, at the memories that flood my mind. No doubt I will shed a few tears as well. And I will most certainly mention him in a conversation or two because it’s important to me that his memory be kept alive.

When I am ready, I will carefully shake myself off and continue living this life to its fullest without him, knowing the best is yet to come… knowing that one day those last goodbyes will not matter because we’ll be saying hello over and over again for eternity.

That, my friend, is what pulls me through on the hardest of grief-filled days, and it’s what keeps me living even when grief takes me by surprise.

Posted in Faith, Grief

Hope Within Tragedy

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If you’ve lived long at all, chances are you’ve experienced tragedy on an intimate level.  You may have felt the terrible sting of a broken heart, shattered dreams, or unwanted goodbyes. It is no respecter of age, gender, or nationality.  None of us is immune to its blow.

It shows itself in many forms and can sometimes appear differently to each of us.  What you may see as tragic, I may not fully understand.  What horrifies me may not bother you as much.  But regardless of the situation, tragedy equals struggle for someone.  And if you are acquainted with it on a personal basis, you will most definitely understand the depths of it.

Then there are instances when tragedy strikes on a larger scale.   It takes place in countries we’ve never visited, and attacks hundreds or thousands of people we’ve never met.  And although these people are strangers living in faraway lands, our minds will fix on them, our hearts will ache for them.  We will experience sadness for those affected.

Tragedy is the reality of the world we live in today, but it is not what God desires for any of us.  Thankfully, it is also one of those places where God meets us and pours His love out upon us.  How else could such a great showing of love exist in the midst of such adversity?  A love greater than we can fathom.  A love that strings together one human heart to another. A love that enables us to keep moving in spite of our hardships. A love that shouts hope in a setting which breathes hopelessness.

One of my favorite go-to verses for this is Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Knowing that God will take all the rough spots in my life and use them for good is a huge source of encouragement to me. It comforts me to know that my tears, my mourning, and my anguish will not be wasted.  He will gather them up and turn them into sweet blessings.

So, my friend, if you are walking through that tunnel of darkness right now, don’t give up.  His grace is the light at the end of your tunnel, and with it He is creating something beautiful for you.

Keep trudging along, focusing on His light, clinging to the hope of the beauty that awaits you… just a few steps more and it will outshine the darkness.