Grieving in the Holiday Season

Merry Christmas Friends,

Are you all ready for Christmas? Is the tree up and decorated, stockings hung, cookies baked, gifts bought, cards signed and sent, and presents all wrapped? I didn’t think so. But if there is such a person out there who has all this done, please share your magic secrets with the rest of us who are scrambling. From the responses, I will draw one person’s name (there is probably only one) for a free copy of my book, Lord, I Just Want to be Happy.

For the great majority of us, it’s probably best to accept that we won’t get it all done unless we forgo sleeping. Please don’t do that. Instead of trying to get it all done, take some time for yourself and enjoy the music, the beauty of the season, and the Lord.

I was meditating on Sara Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling, which is a favorite for many of us. She writes for December 16th, “I speak in the language of Love; My words fill you with Life and Peace, Joy and Hope. I desire to talk with all of my children, but many are too busy to listen.”

Is this YOU? Are you too busy to listen? There is a huge difference between hearing something and truly listening. I’ve heard Christmas carols for weeks now, but I haven’t listened to them. I haven’t pondered their words, or felt their melody. They’ve been nothing more than background filler. They haven’t touched my heart.

I wonder if that’s what God’s Word becomes for many of us. We hear, but we don’t listen. We know the words, but they fail to move us. They don’t really change our heart.

God’s Word is meant to move us, to heal us, and to change us. The psalmist declares “He sent forth his Word and healed them.” (Psalm 107:20). And John writes, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And even then, we didn’t listen (John 1:10, 11).

Are you lacking hope, joy and peace even in this most joyous of seasons? Perhaps it’s because you’re not listening. You hear, but you don’t believe. The apostle Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

This Christmas, ask God for the gift of faith, so that you will be able to hear and listen to Jesus speaking his language of love to you personally.

Today’s Question: I am a widow of over four years. My husband was the love of my life. We met when I was 16 and married at 18. We had our struggles, but we loved each other deeply. We have two daughters. One was having our grandchildren, so we moved out to be near her. We built our dream home. I got transferred. My husband sold his business and started a new one at our new location, but then he developed panic attacks and couldn’t sleep. He went to the doctor, was prescribed antidepressant medication, but five days later he shot himself. My life forever changed. I have never known such pain, and for years I wanted to die too. I am doing better, but the sadness is always with me. Will this ever go away? I go on, despite my feelings, and do the best I can do to make my life.

I loved being married. I miss all the things that went with being married. I’ve been in counseling. I meditate and try to live for today and don’t look back, but it’s not easy. I still miss what I had. I remember all the cards that said your memories bring you comfort, but that’s not true. They only bring pain of what I had and don’t have now. Any suggestions?

Answer: I chose your question for this week because for so many people the holidays are not a happy time. They are filled with suffering and loss and other challenges that feel like they will go on forever. I’m so sorry for your pain. Losing a loved one is very difficult, but when it is also suicide, it is especially devastating.

There is no time table for grief. I imagine that you hear you should be “over it” by now. But for many, they don’t really get over it. They just move through it, and sometimes it takes a long time to get to the other side where they find themselves able to enjoy life again. Sadly, your husband wasn’t able to hope for a future that was different than his present. That’s why he felt desperate enough to end his life. It’s important that you remember that no matter how difficult your present is, God has a plan for your life, a plan with a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

I recently read a powerful book called The Color of Rain by Michael and Gina Spehn. It chronicles the story of two families, Michael Spehn and Gina Spell, who each lost a spouse too young. Gina’s husband died Christmas day leaving her alone with two young boys. Michael’s wife died unexpectedly from a brain tumor. Nether Michael nor Gina minimize the loss and grief they suffered, but they also share the story of a future and a sense of purpose in what God is doing in the midst of their suffering. You may find it encouraging for you this season. Finding purpose in your suffering is one way we move through and deal with tragedy in a healthier way.

Another book that I found very helpful is Ann VosKamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. She doesn’t pretend life is easy, but she powerfully reminds us that whatever happens, God is good and that one way we can chase out our negative feelings is to learn to give thanks in all things.

My good friend Georgia Shaffer, who is a Life Coach, wrote a newsletter this month on dealing with the holidays when you’re not so happy. I found her suggestions helpful; perhaps you will too. Georgia’s resources can be found at

Georgia writes:

It's that time of year when television commercials and magazine advertisements overflow with what seem like only bright, happy faces. But what if you are filled with a sense of loss, uncertainty, or dread? What if you are feeling discouraged or hopeless?

Unfortunately, the holidays accentuate those feelings. Whether you are facing the loss of income, lifestyle, health, relationships or a long-held dream, the holidays can be a painful reminder of what once was and no longer is. Although there are no quick fixes, here are a few suggestions:

Give yourself permission to grieve.
Recognize that the time of sorrow may coincide with the holiday season. Be willing to accept your sadness, disappointment, or anger rather than struggle and fight with it. Along with your holiday activities, give yourself time to process your pain. Allow yourself the space to reminisce, cry or journal your thoughts and feelings.

Let go of some old traditions.
Reduced energy accompanies loss and sadness. Be gentle with yourself and realize that your Thanksgiving and Christmas this year may not meet the American holiday dream. What is most important to you? You may choose to focus on meeting the needs of your family rather than baking dozens of cookies for friends and relatives. Next year you may have the strength to resume that tradition.

Develop new traditions.
If the sadness results from death or divorce, your significant other will no longer be part of the holidays. What new traditions can you establish? Reaching out to others helps to take the focus off your circumstances. Delivering flowers to a nursing home or calling someone who is alone often causes your problems to shrink.

Accept help and support.
Although most of us prefer to give help rather than receive it, sometimes it becomes necessary to accept emotional or physical support. Rest in the knowledge that God will provide for your needs and remember that in time, like winter, the season of sorrow will end.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to find a grief support group such as Grief Share that will give you the added support you still need. Sometimes we fear tiring out our friends with our sadness and therefore end up faking it a lot. Who knows better what you’re going through than other people who have also suffered a deep loss?

Even though it’s been four years, when you allow God to use you in the most tender areas of your own pain, you will begin to feel that sense of purpose and aliveness that you have lost with the death of your husband and loss of your marriage and future together. You still have a future and so ask God to show it to you.

Friends, especially those of you who may also have lost a loved one, what other resources, advice, or help can you offer this dear woman?


  1. Christine M. on December 24, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Perhaps doing something to honor your husband's memory, like donating to a charity or sending flowers to a nursing home. This could bring some positivity out of your sadness, perhaps?

  2. Christopher B on August 5, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Great blog you have here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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