Thirteen years ago my mother died after a two year battle with cancer. She died on November 4th and it was a day that I will never forget. A few years earlier my step father died close to the holidays and over twenty years ago my husband’s mother (who would’ve been my mother in law if we had been married at the time) also died right before the holidays.
My mother’s birthday is also in November right before Thanksgiving, so I understand what it’s like to have lost a loved one during the holiday season and I’d like to share a few ways that I have learned to deal with the memories and the loss during the holidays.
The first thing to remember is that it is completely OK to remember your loved one. Sometimes people try to be well meaning when they don’t bring up your loved one, because they think that if they do, it will upset you. However, that’s not the case. Generally, when people talk about your loved one, it makes it easier to deal with the loss. So, if you want to talk about your loved one who has died, tell your friends it’s okay. Allow them to ask questions and use the time to remember.
The second thing to do is to allow yourself to feel your emotions. God created us to feel, which means that it’s okay to feel. If you’re feeling sad, then allow yourself a time to cry and remember. If you’re feeling angry, allow yourself an opportunity to talk out why you feel angry or set aside a time to journal about your feelings. If you’re disappointed or your expectations were not met, take time to examine those feelings and allow yourself to process them. The key here is to create an environment for yourself that is safe and conducive to healing. Don’t stuff your feelings because that will only lead to more stress on your body and it may create more depression.
The third thing to do is set boundaries when you’re with others. The holidays are notorious for family gatherings that may cause stress. If you already know that visiting family is going to be stressful, then have a plan set up in advance and keep to that plan. I recommend having a two hour time slot that you spend with difficult family. All you have to do is tell your family that you will be with them for two hours and then you have another commitment. This allows you the freedom to be with family without wearing yourself out emotionally.
The fourth thing to remember is that God is near to the brokenhearted. Most people have some type of belief in God and for the Christian we are especially blessed because we have a God, in Jesus Christ, who tells us that He was a man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief and that He is near to the brokenhearted. Pour your heart out to the One who loves you and is able to comfort you in the deepest parts of your heart. He loves you and will carry you through the hard times. Allow Him to love you and heal you.