By Dr. Gladys Childs
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)
This Thanksgiving marked the start of a new holiday tradition for me—one without living parents or siblings. With my brother’s death earlier this year, the little family unit of four that I grew up with is no longer here, and I miss them.
WHEN LOSSES STACK UP
My dad died first; I was twenty-five years old. Almost thirty years later, I try to recall the first Thanksgiving without him standing at the counter, cleaning gizzards, making the stuffing, and preparing the turkey. I can’t remember; I take it as a gift from God, unable to recall. I do remember the first Christmas, though. For the first time, presents became irrelevant; their shine faded without my father’s presence. A shine never to return. I just missed him.
However, I still had my mom and brother. My brother became the stuffing and turkey maker. And, over the years, we adjusted to a new normal that brought us all joy. Thanksgiving, our favorite family holiday, was sweetened in time as my brother had his daughter, and then I had my son.
In the summer of 2021, my mother passed away. I am still stunned at how her absence is felt. Then, my brother passed away in January, and now all I have are memories. So, as I go through this holiday season, I am actively thinking about how one handles grief.
NAVIGATING GRIEF WHILE THE WORLD REJOICES
Experiencing grief during the holiday season can be extremely challenging and overwhelming. The holiday season is typically when we are expected to be joyful and surrounded by loved ones, exacerbating loneliness, sadness, and isolation. Suppose you are experiencing grief during the holidays. In that case, it’s essential to remember that you are not alone, and it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. Here are some helpful tips that will help you navigate this difficult time:
1. Turn to God.
God is walking with you through your grief. Lift your grief up to God and share all your feelings and struggles. Keep up your daily devotionals, and go to church. Now is not the time to turn away from God, as He is the ultimate redeemer of all grief.
2. Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
It’s natural to feel a range of emotions when you’re grieving, including sadness, anger, and loneliness. It’s essential to acknowledge these feelings and allow yourself to grieve in your own way and at your own pace.
3. Reach out for support.
Don’t hesitate to contact your family, friends, or a professional therapist if you need emotional support. Speaking to someone you trust can help you process your emotions and learn how to live with grief.
4. Create new traditions.
Consider creating new traditions that honor your loved one’s memory. You could light a candle in their honor, donate to a charity they support, or cook their favorite meal. This can help you feel connected to them and their memory.
5. Take care of yourself.
It’s crucial to prioritize self-care during this time. Ensure you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. Taking a break from holiday festivities is okay if you need to rest and recharge.
6. Focus on gratitude.
Although it can be tough to feel grateful during a challenging time, try to focus on the positive things in your life, no matter how small they seem. Practicing gratitude can help shift your focus from what you’ve lost to what you still have.
Remember, grief is a personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to navigate it. Take things one day at a time, be kind and patient with yourself, and reach out for help if you need it. With time, you will find ways to cope and heal.
NEW TRADITIONS WITH OLD MEMORIES
As I work on coping and healing during the holidays, I made the turkey and dressing this past Thanksgiving. I spoke of my late family with my husband and son. We kept their memories alive. I talked to God about my grief and focused on the beauty still in my life. I have so much to be thankful for in the present moment.
I also remember my mom’s words, “There is nothing you can do about it.” She wasn’t referring to death, but the truth of her words also applies here. I can’t change the loss of my dad, mom, or brother. The only thing I can do is accept it and live the rest of my life with the joy and vibrancy they would want.
Isaiah 61:3 is a balm for my soul. God has redeemed the pain from my dad’s death and is redeeming the pain from the loss of my mother and brother. God has taught and continues to teach me so much about life and relationships through the passing of my loved ones. As I cling to Him, He renews me and gives me strength. God reminds me that life is for the living, and I know the best way to move through the holidays and the grief I carry is to move forward with determination and joy.
Dr. Gladys Childs is an author, speaker, religion professor, pastor’s wife, and mom helping others be F.R.E.E. to Thrive© for the abundant life God has for them. She serves as Chaplain at Texas Wesleyan University and the Women’s Director at LifePoint Fellowship. She brings 25 years of experience and knowledge to her ministry. Find her at gladyschilds.com.
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