The city I live in has already started decorating for the holidays! Christmas bows, lights, and ornaments hang from store signage and light posts throughout our town. The signs have already started going up: “Happy Holidays”!
It’s festive to be sure (even though it gets earlier and earlier every year—have you noticed?), but for many, the holidays are anything but happy. For some, maybe even you, the holidays are reminders of something or someone that has been lost. You already feel the full weight of loss on your heart and the thought of attending the parties, singing the songs, and “making merry” is just too much.
If you are grieving a loss and feeling a bit panicked about navigating loss through the holidays, you are not alone. You are not alone. I am so sorry for the pain of your loss.
Your loss isn’t something you will “get over,” but it is something you will “get through,” and with the holidays fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful to share some strategies to help with navigating loss through the holidays.
Here are a few things to consider:
Have a plan.
Look ahead at the calendar and identify the specific occasions, days, or moments that will trigger your pain and intensify your grief. Choose how best to handle those moments, perhaps by limiting your exposure, setting a boundary, not attending at all, or attending with a friend by your side who will be tuned in to your cues for help. Try your best to balance what’s meaningful with what’s manageable.
Develop the art of pre-grieving.
Look ahead to what will be the more difficult days and make plans to pre-grieve. Mark the calendar and set aside a day or two before the “difficult day” and let yourself grieve your loss. Remember, grief demands expression. If you avoid giving grief its voice, it will leak out in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
Prepare for the emotional ambush.
What is an emotional ambush? An emotional ambush is an unexpected moment that takes you by surprise and illicit an emotional response. For example, signing your Christmas cards and suddenly wondering, How do I sign this?, you open the box of Christmas ornaments and pull out the one with your loved one’s name on it, you set a place for them at the holiday dinner table without realizing it, or you suddenly remember you have no idea how to carve a turkey. These are normal, and expecting them, even embracing them will lessen their impact.
Our loss is not the boss of us.
Remember, our circumstances do not have the power to ruin our lives without our permission. Rehearse and repeat that to yourself. Grieve purposefully in a way that honors your wiring. Engage in stillness, journaling, prayer, meaningful conversations with a friend, and have a good cry—all for the purpose of taking the edge off your emotions and honoring the depth of your loss.
Establish and stick to helpful boundaries.
You don’t have to attend every party or say yes to every invitation. Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for your own heart is to say, “No thank you.”
Give yourself grace and space.
Be kind to your own heart this season. Give yourself the space you need to be alone or not be alone. To be sad or to want to laugh. Grace and space.
Look for the fingerprints of God.
Perhaps you can recognize His fingerprints through the meals, the cards, and the comfort of others—through His Word, His people, and His presence. The invitation from Scripture is to lament and to bring Him your honest feelings. Psalm 147: 3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (NIV). I have experienced this personally, and I believe He will do it for you as well.
Someone is praying for you right now—praying that the Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, will comfort you in yours, that His presence and peace would be overwhelming and unexplainable, that in moments of anger and unbelief, He would help your unbelief and send someone to stand in the gap. That is my prayer for you today, sister.
A word to your friends: if you find yourself at a gathering this season with someone grieving a loss, may I offer three suggestions? First, don’t be afraid to mention the loss or say the name of the person who has died. It is comforting to know that someone else remembers. Second, while remembering is honoring, keep the conversation lighter. No one wants to break down over the charcuterie board. A simple mention of remembering will suffice. Third, if your friend does start to share about their loss, listen. You don’t have to solve or fix. Just listen. Sometimes only two words are needed as a follow-up: I’m sorry.
And will you join me in praying that God will continue to bind up the brokenhearted and pour out His comfort this season and beyond?
ABOUT KAYE HURTA
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for women’s events through Lifeway Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. “I was a wounded, lonely Midwest farm girl until the Divine Romancer swept me off my feet. I want to steward my story well so that others can find Him in their stories and be fully satisfied.” Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas, in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live on Florida’s West Coast and are both on staff at Bayside Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the Lifeway resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.