Hope for the Holidays
By Jennifer Lauer
It’s pretty likely that you have already begun some holiday preparations. Maybe you’ve already gotten the turkey, bought some new decorations, listened to Christmas music, or started your shopping.
Or maybe you haven’t done any of that. Maybe you don’t even want to.
The holidays are often excruciatingly difficult to walk through when you are in the midst of grief. The empty chair at the table seems to suck all of the air out of the room and buying gifts feels ridiculous because the one thing you want can't be bought or given to you. The happy holiday faces only serve as a reminder that you are not happy at all. For some, maintaining family traditions brings comfort and a sense of normalcy in the chaos of grief. For others, those traditions may have to be changed or altogether abandoned just to feel like you can survive.
There are many factors that affect how we grieve. Our previous experiences with loss, how we cope under stress, our relationship to the person we lost— to name just a few. There is absolutely no "right" time frame for someone to process their grief. Be careful not to hold yourself or anyone else to a standard of “normal” behavior or emotions when coping with a loss.
If you are grieving, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to carefully approach those traditions and follow your instincts. If those around you are grieving a loss, extend extra kindness, understanding, and opportunities for companionship. Offering to share in someone’s traditions (like decorating, baking or shopping) might allow them to engage in a cherished activity that might feel too overwhelming on their own.
In our suffering, there is only one common denominator: our gracious and loving God. He sees our hurt, he knows our despair, he understands the pain of our hearts. He is there with you when you feel alone. It only takes opening your Bible to see God repeatedly show his mercy to those in their heartache. Early in his teachings to the crowds, Jesus gave what we now know as the Sermon on the Mount:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:1-4
Jesus knew there were aching hearts everywhere that needed to hear they could be blessed in their suffering; that with faith they can be comforted and given hope. The hope that God gives us is ultimately shown by the salvation we receive through the death of Jesus on the cross. He doesn’t ask us not to be sad and he doesn’t ask us not to mourn. All He asks is that we turn to him for guidance, direction, comfort, and love— and to trust that He has a plan for our futures that include hope and joy.
If you are struggling with grief this holiday season and beyond, these few additional Bible passages may provide some comfort:
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Jennifer Lauer is the Cares Ministry Director here at Grace. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and facilitates our grief support group, Finding Grace in Grief. She finds her time with her husband and children well spent.