Advent begins with looking forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the age before returning to a spiritual remembrance of Christ’s First Coming in Bethlehem. This looking forward as well as looking back is quite natural for us human persons. Our dreams & goals are as important as our memories. We need both. One helps us move forward in growth and development, just as the other roots us in family, history, source and a grander narrative. We should be prayerfully attentive to both. For both are necessary for our understanding of God’s self-revelation to us in Jesus, the Son, in Advent & always.
Another reality of this looking forward and back can be especially challenging for some people. Even as we pass the midpoint of Advent and have a mini – Gaudete – Rejoicing, we are mindful of those who are grieving. Those who have “recently” experienced the loss of a loved one, often spend quite a bit of time looking back during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. So many memories – fond, loving, sweet memories – are brought to the fore, which can make the absence of the loved one that much more acute. It is important for us as a community to be especially attentive to and compassionate toward those who are going through these times of grief. This has often been associated with the natural reality of ‘darkest days’ as we move toward the winter solstice when we experience the greatest duration of darkness – it can almost be as if the world is feeling that which the mourner is feeling: a coldness, darkness, sadness. If this is you, please know you are not alone. You are loved. And you are strong enough to do the work of grieving. Jesus wept with those who grieved for Lazarus. He weeps with you in your loss as well. Know of my prayers and of the prayers of the greater Holy Family family for you.
Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays
(Clinically reviewed by Kimberly D. Gray, LCSW https://share.baptisthealth.com/coping-with-grief-during-holidays)
- Don’t “cancel” the holidays. – It’s common to want to skip holiday celebrations after someone has died. There may be certain events or traditions that are too hard to continue this year, but you should continue with others, including spending time with family and friends.
- Decide in advance how to handle the season. – There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to experience the holidays after a loved one has died. But it can make the season easier if you have a plan for what traditions to continue, discontinue, or start as a way of honoring your loved one.
- Allow yourself to experience all your emotions. – It’s not good for you or those around you to “pause” your grief with the idea of returning to it after the holidays. Everyone who misses the person should feel free to experience their emotions fully. That includes joy. If people can find some happiness during the season, they shouldn’t hide or feel guilty about it. Your loved one would want everyone to be happy.
- Have reasonable expectations for the holidays. – Despite your best efforts, the holidays probably will not feel like they have in the past. That’s understandable. Try to “lower the bar” a bit and be patient, knowing that each year will bring more perspective and a greater focus on happy memories of your loved one.
- Draw strength and comfort from serving others. – If you can, do kind deeds for others during the holidays. Perhaps invite someone to join your celebration who might otherwise be alone. Or donate to a charity your loved one supported. Volunteer work is an excellent alternative to being alone.
- Pay attention to your physical and mental health. – Be sure to eat well, stay physically active, and get plenty of sleep when coping with grief around the holidays — or at any time of year.
- Consider getting additional support. - The love of family and friends will be very beneficial in coping with holiday grief. But don’t hesitate to seek other assistance if appropriate from a counselor or therapist, a spiritual leader, etc. They understand what you’re going through and want to help. So, don’t be reluctant to contact them out of concern that you’ll “bring them down.”
- I would add, Pray. Drawing near to God means drawing near to all who are near God, including your loved one.
+ Nothing Less than saints for the Holy Family of God. +
Holy Family, Protective Father, Expectant Mother, Divine Son, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries