There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to tear down and a time to build, time to weep and time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance... Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

It is the time of year that naturally brings out our full range of emotions. It is a time of year that it is often hard to know how or what to feel. Both joy and pain can fill hearts at the same moment. Soon we will be hearing many people wishing each other happy holidays. But for many others, it will be anything but happy. The holidays always bring a special challenge to those who are mourning. Whether it is the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas, each special day reminds us of time we shared with our loved one and the things we used to do together. Waves of memories can overwhelm us. It is normal to worry about or even dread the upcoming events. It’s common to wonder if we are going to survive them and how we will manage. Many times the anticipation is worse than the realization. What we can know is that we will need the help of our Divine Creator to help us through the challenges we will face this holiday season. Remember that Jesus said we should “Take Heart” because God is always with us and for us. God is always empowering us and sustaining us though all of life’s challenges. One way God helps us is by providing us with resources such as coping mechanisms. God gives the ability to pick up coping tools for the journey we must take. Our part is to accept the practical resources and suggestions God offers to help us cope. Practical coping methods allow us to come through our painful experiences with Hope remaining in our heart. In the following are some ways God invites us to cope with the Holidays.

I pray for each of you to be covered with the peace of God that passes all understanding. May you fully accept the invitation to rely on God’s grace and mercy. May you accept the invitation to pick up some tools to help you cope with the Holidays. May God bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and give you peace.

You might find the following suggestions helpful:

Be kind to yourself. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling. You don’t have to put on a “happy face” for others. Say “yes” or “no” to things based on what you need or want. Plan ahead. Decide what is important. Accept your limitations at this time. These limitations won’t last forever. If it is too much for you to do, do not decorate your home, send cards or cook.

Ask for and accept help. After a loss, it can be a challenge balancing being with others or being alone. During the holidays, it is important for you to let others know what you need. You may feel as though you are a burden to others, but people want to help you although they often do not know how. The same applies for your emotional needs. Others may feel uncomfortable talking with you about your grief. Just let them know if you want to talk about what you are going through or just want a shoulder to cry on.

Include your loved one in the holiday. Just because your loved one is not with you physically, you do not have to pretend as though they never existed. Some people are afraid to say the deceased’s name or reminisce for fear of making you cry. The truth is you are already feeling the emotion of loss. Let others know it is OK to do so by doing it yourself. Holidays are a good time to share memories of your loved one. Telling funny stories is a wonderful way of including them in the holiday. Honor the memory of the beloved in special ways that have meaning to you.

Allow yourself to find some enjoyment. When we are in the midst of grief, it is difficult to think that we will ever find joy in our life again. We also may feel that we are somehow dishonoring the memory of our loved one by enjoying ourselves. The truth is that we all need laughter in our life. It can be very healing. Try to allow yourself some enjoyment in the season.

Please do what YOU need to do to get through the day. Some people decide to keep the same customs for each holiday while others decide to make changes. For some, it is easier to be in a different environment and might leave town during the holiday. Others may decide to skip their own celebration in order to be of service to others by helping those who are alone and forgotten. Whatever you do decide to do, make it as easy as possible on yourself.

Ty Morgan, MSW, LISW-S

Cornerstone of Hope’s Spiritual Care Coordinator/Clinician