My guest today is best-selling Author Patricia Hickman, who lost her teen daughter. She will be sharing some of her thoughts and devotions today and on the next few Thursdays. If you have a friend who is grieving the loss of a loved one, you might want to direct her here. For comfort and to read how another person coped with loss. Here’s Patricia.
Grief Recovery Through the Holidays
By Patricia Hickman
After the sudden loss of our daughter, Jessica, we were warned by other grieving parents of the “dreaded holiday season.” Our family had always enjoyed our Christmas fanaticism, the neighborhood lights competitions, and the many annual traditions we practiced. Having loss thrust on us suddenly, we had to reconstruct Christmas. The old traditions were too painful so it became evident that we were going to have to create a new normalcy for the holidays. Because it had always been our tradition to hang the old handmade tree ornaments made by our children over the years, pulling those precious keepsakes out for me as a mom was devastating. We discussed the issue with our sons and agreed that for at least a couple of years, we were going to keep the tree in temporary retirement.
Whether it is a tree or some other family heirloom that reminds you of the loved one you have lost, thinking of putting those types of triggers out of sight in advance of the holiday season could help to alleviate some of the stressors that may negatively affect your raw emotions.
However, that didn’t mean we were going to force our boys to sit around the house glum-faced. A friend passed along a timeshare that first Christmas so we visited an island in South Carolina, a new experience for us all that created a fresh memory. We were surprised at how a change of scenery lifted our hearts out of the doldrums. The condo came with a full kitchen and we all cooked something different and fun, but not laborious.
After several years, my holiday spirit did return, the ornaments were pulled out, and I was glad to return to our old Christmas traditions.
The best gift a grieving person can give to him/herself is permission–permission to change traditions, to create new normals, to kindly say “no” to social settings that place high expectations on you. The practice of reflecting and memorializing brings more comfort than you know. Personal memorials aid your recovery like a healing balm. Holding a candle lighting service in honor of your loved one can be a comfort and allow you to reflect positively about the one you are missing. Our youngest son and I collected miniature ornaments that we felt his sister would love. We found a miniature tree with battery operated lights. We decorated the little tree, took it to the cemetery, and gave it to our Jess for Christmas. We felt as though somehow she knew and was there with us. Just as we were leaving the cemetery, a soft winter rain let go and in the dim grayness, we could see Jess’s tree shining out. It was a reminder of the light of Christ that had always shown forth from her heart. That is the power of memory-on-purpose. Purposeful memories bring comfort.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to be certain that you don’t fall into the denial patterns of trying to act like nothing has changed. Of course everything has changed from this time forth. By acknowledging that change, you fill that empty space with new memories and reflections; you grieve freely and positively.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Cor. 4:8-10 NLT
Thanks, Patricia. I’m awed that you were able to face the grief and deal with it. I’ve seen families destroyed by the loss of a child. God bless you and your family.
Do any of you have any helpful hints about how to deal with loss at the holidays? Tell us your stories.