By Marie C. Celano, LCPC, Director of Grace Counseling Ministries
Scripture says mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). A few years ago I had the opportunity to do just that when I attended Surviving the Holidays with a friend. He had lost his wife, my very dear friend, to cancer and was dreading his first Christmas without her. She had made Christmas special; if you visited their home around the holidays, you’d see a display of Nutcrackers they had collected during their travels, and a Christmas tree matched only by the ones you see in magazines. He was anticipating that Christmas would be another reminder of his loss.
As we sat down at a table of fellow grievers, little did I know how meaningful these two hours would be for him. We all began by sharing a little bit about our experience of loss. There was a sense of camaraderie and a joining of hearts as we shared. The speakers also provided a lot of practical and helpful advice. For example, they suggested that those experiencing a recent loss, to plan ahead, and they taught the importance of listening to our grief as we head into the holidays suggesting we “only participate in activities you think you can handle for as long as you can handle them.”
The speakers also said not to try to make Christmas exactly like it was when our loved one was alive and encouraged the attendees to not go beyond what they were comfortable doing. One speaker, a Griefshare leader, shared how her grandchildren had filled a glass ornament with strips of paper upon which they wrote funny quotes from their grandfather, her late husband. She brings that ornament out every year at Christmas to read the messages and remember her husband.
The day after the event I followed up with my friend. He shared that he was encouraged and felt it was a very meaningful event. For me, the most touching thing that happened was weeks later when my friend gave his two sons identical glass ornaments filled with messages from friends and family about their mother. They hung the ornaments on what they called “the ugly Christmas tree.” Together they decided they could never create a tree like their mother so instead they purchased a Charlie Brown type Christmas tree. God used Surviving the Holidays for my friend to not only survive but to face Christmas head on.
If you have recently lost a loved one, I know your loss might feel magnified during the holidays. Consider attending Surviving the Holidays on Nov 21 at 7P.