Christmas is for family. It’s for celebration, laughter, visiting friends, going to parties, church services, all around happiness and feelings of inclusion and togetherness. Right?
Right. Not for everyone.
This year marks the second Christmas without your laughter, your silliness, late night crib games, teasing, and countless other special memories (read: gaping holes) left behind. Whoever said the first year is the hardest had some very high aspirations.
We still do the things and go through the motions, but there are those moments when that emptiness climbs up and sits on my lap not unlike a polar bear would. The quiet moments when we play a family game that would normally be filled with your comments or attempts to get someone worked up to get a laugh.
The year leading up to this holiday season made way for some big life changes, some necessary for healing, some necessary for other reasons, but the fact remains that you are not here. And the silence left behind is deafening. I am left here, struggling to figure out what is appropriate for someone who feels the way I do. Do I ignore the feeling of loss and go through the motions, leaning on others to be a distraction? Do I embrace the emptiness and figure this out on my own? The answer is both.
It’s okay to dislike these times that appear happy for everyone but you. There are times when I feel like I’m peering in on a party I wasn’t invited to as I try to get wrapped up in the joy of the season. I find it very hard to celebrate my dad sitting with our Heavenly Father, when all I want is for my earthly father to be here again. I find it hard to be happy for families that are all together when I have to work with emptiness. Establishing life without someone is difficult.
It’s okay to go where you’re invited. It’s even okay to have fun. Grief and loss does not have a set of rules that dictates how long you are required to feel the loss. It’s okay to be distracted from the loss. Think of the stone at the bottom of the river; never leaving the riverbed, changing ever-so-slightly as time passes. These moments of distraction (and yes, happiness) do not take away from my grief and sorrow. They merely assist in the slight changes required to make necessary adjustments.
It’s okay to be mad at God. Yes, death is a part of life. Yes, I know I can’t have my dad forever. But we didn’t even have a chance to prepare for dad’s departure. I had some intense conversations with God about this. You can too. God is our Father. We are his children. I have not yet heard of any parent-child relationship that was devoid of disagreement. Get mad at God. Open up that conversation. Even an angry prayer is still a prayer. And prayer just may be the only thing that gets you through some days.
It’s okay to talk to everyone who will listen. It’s not whining, it’s not complaining. It’s processing. It’s healthy. Those who are willing to listen, are the ones who understand and care about you. The ones who have been there and know how you feel because they have felt it themselves. Find someone who has been there and lean on them.
It’s okay to not want to talk to anyone. Especially when you have no idea what is going on. Grief is a crazy beast that can and will strike at the most inopportune times. It takes time to find out who you are without that person. And it’s okay to want to discover the new you before you lean on others. One word of advice though: find someone you trust – family or friend- to reach out to. Someone who will check in on you. It’s perfectly healthy to want to retreat for a while; it becomes unhealthy when the retreat turns into isolation. This can be avoided with some help from trusted friends.
I received a message from a friend today that pointed me to one of my favourite books of the Bible: Psalms. She sent me a quote from her daily devotional:
Thank goodness we are not the first of God’s people to suffer through confusing ties in our walks with God. Others before us have also had to find a way to pray through pain, and we have some of their prayers recorded in the Psalms.
If you have hit a wall in your prayer life, borrow from the Psalms. Listen as they whisper (and sometimes shout) your own [pain]. Find comfort in knowing you are not alone. Let the psalmists … give voice to your hurt
This time of year is when I hate the expression ‘time heals all wounds’ the most. It doesn’t matter how much time passes. The moments I am reminded that my dad isn’t here do not hurt any less with the passing of time. But perhaps I am viewing this phrase a little incorrectly. Perhaps I should not be depending on time to heal the pain of loss. Perhaps I should instead be waiting on God to walk me through this pain and grow in His eyes instead of my own.
Here’s what I’ve learned through it all:
Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;
Be entwined as one with the Lord.
Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.
Yes, keep on waiting – for he will never disappoint you!
Psalm 27: 13-14, TPT
It’s okay to be feeling what you are feeling. Grief and loss is an individualized process that is same-but-different for everyone. It’s how we deal with and use those feelings that can make or break this process. God will never give us pain that we cannot use for growth. Grief and loss is one of those areas of growth that we cannot see until we are on the other side of the growth.