Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Support Someone Who is Grieving Over the Holidays

It has been a while since I have been here. I haven't known what to say or how to say it. Even when I do…well, I haven't wanted to. Truth is I feel shattered into pieces. On the outside, everything looks okay to most people. On the inside, it is a big ole mess.

In all of it, I have realized more and more my desperate need for God. For His promises to be what I have grown up believing to be true. The firm foundation is there. My roots are grounded deep in the soil of the belief I have in a Sovereign God. I think this is the ONLY thing that surrounds the deepest parts of my soul with peace unexplainable, on days when all I really want to do is crawl back in bed.

Yet, even in my rooted faith, I feel shaken to the core. I question. I argue. I plead. I cry out in anger. And while I know it is not my place to question "why," I still do.  I realize there is a constant struggle internally. The struggle between how I feel and what I want to feel. The struggle between acknowledging my grief and living full of hope. The struggle between allowing myself to be angry at the circumstances, yet embrace all that I have to be thankful for. It is a constant internal teeter totter.

With the holidays upon us, I simply feel vulnerable. I want to close my eyes and just wake up on the other side of Christmas. It is exhausting emotionally to harbor the sadness and loneliness that tends to weigh especially heavy this time of year, while attempting to move forward and embrace the joy the season brings.

I think at this point, most people want to hear how things are looking up. After a while, it's easy to tire of hearing about how difficult this all still feels. This is simply my reality and I will always be honest. Holidays stink! So, if you would like to know the truth…well, I guarantee that most people you talk to who have experienced the death of someone they love dearly, will tell you that the holidays are hard. Just think about it…our greatest holiday memories are captured with our family, with our husbands and wives, with our children, grandparents and parents. When suddenly one of those people are no longer there, it tears all the memories you've known and loved, completely apart. Nothing feels quite right without them there. Nothing. So, here's what I would encourage you to do this season, (from the perspective of someone who is grieving):

How to Support Someone Who is Grieving over the Holidays:

1. Be aware…look for those around you who may be missing someone this year, someone who has always been a big part of their normal traditions and activities.

2. Invite them to join your family, even if it's the day before or after, and start a "new" tradition of loving on someone who is grieving. It could be as simple as having a Thanksgiving dessert together or "day after Christmas" movie and popcorn date. Invite the kids over to bake cookies or play board games, so the parent that is alone could have a mental "break" from being "on" with the kids or could go Christmas shopping without having to pay a sitter. For parents who have lost a child, they may just need some time together alone.

3. Make a point to check in…whether it's a simple email, text, phone call, or card in the mail to say "I'm thinking about you this holiday season."

4. Allow them to talk about their loved one and don't feel afraid to share your stories and memories if you have them. It really is wonderful to say and hear their name. It's okay and good to acknowledge that you can imagine the loved one's presence is missed. It brings validation that is important for those who are grieving that loss. 

5. Please don't complain about or share your family drama. Someone who is grieving a loss during the holidays has no mental energy or tolerance for hearing this when they would give anything for one more holiday with the one they lost. Be sensitive to this. 

6. Also, be understanding if they do NOT want to get together or engage in conversations, it just might not be the right time. Just knowing that you took the time to pursue them and were thinking about them means more than you could imagine, even if they choose to not receive in the moment. Remember it is not about YOU and what YOU receive from it, but about your thoughtfulness toward them…however they choose to receive that. 

7. Offer to help decorate for the holidays. It can be really painful pulling out all of the decorations and traditions that were always a part of things for your family. The absence of one who was always involved with all of it can feel extremely intense and the part they played in getting ready for the holidays is very real. 

8. Pray for the family that is experiencing the loss. Whether it's taking a minute to put your arm around them and pray in person, or committing to pray for them with your own family during the holidays. 

I have been extremely blessed to have people in my life who have done these kind of things for us, so  this is just from my own experience. My hope is that someone else could benefit from these ideas. I am truly thankful for so many who continue to reach out in even the smallest ways, and it always makes us feel special and loved. While, it doesn't take the sting away, it certainly brings comfort to know someone thought about US in the midst of all they have going on in their world.

I'm trying desperately to choose thankfulness this holiday season. I am focusing on the HOPE I have in Christ, even when I am torn up on the inside. Life is a gift. One that is fragile and sacred and precious. One that should be cherished. Thankful for those who continue to walk with us through prayer and tangible acts of thoughtfulness toward us.