Life After Loss: The Holidays…

Christmas Day - 2011

Christmas Day – 2011

It’s funny.. I should take it as flattery that I’ve had a few people bug me already on where this week’s article is. Honestly? If you twist my arm right now and make me cry “uncle”, I’ve simply been afraid..

..afraid of the cost of writing it.

Afraid of what you ask? Here’s a word picture for you.

Imagine that blockbuster suspense movie you and your friends couldn’t wait to see. That scene where the survivors have barricaded themselves in the only safe place they can control. But, then they realize that they need to leave the safety of that haven they’ve built for themselves because they can’t stay there forever. In doing so, they will have to squarely face all the things that have haunted them up to that point. The things that have spent the entire movie trying to fight their way in.. Causing casualties here and there when an unsuspecting survivor was being careless and was dragged through a hole in the fence, or some other equally tragic circumstance. Now, they have to find courage they never knew they had… cause if they don’t, they’ll die slowly in the prison they created for themselves.


We can’t barricade ourselves in our mind. But, I’ll come back to that in a bit. Let’s keep going.

Ironically, I knew I was going to write about ways to cope with this time of year, even before it was the topic during our last week of discussion at Church.

Death, divorce, abuse, abandonment.. All of them leave you feeling stripped, violated, empty.

The Apostle Paul understood this. Near the end of his own life, he was all but abandoned and stripped of the things most dear to him. His son in the faith, Timothy, was one of them.

2 Timothy 1:3-4“Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I might be filled with joy”

This below will resonate to those who’ve suffered divorce or abuse.. When even (as wrong as it is) the hand or your abuser or ex spouse still brings you comfort.

2 Timothy 4:16“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me”

Memory is a great blessing—and can be a great curse. The memory of relatives separated from us by death, divorce, or distance is a legitimate source of great pain and a legitimate reason to hurt. As you read about last week, my ability to recall memories make it doubly so.

But, just keep reading one more verse…

2 Timothy 4:17“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength”

So what does this all mean? It’s OK to grieve. Give yourself permission to. But then you ask how this helps you with the pain. Walk with me, let’s unpack some thoughts and suggestions.

Thanksgiving - 2008

Thanksgiving – 2008

Paul wrote once that he “despaired even of life” and “felt the sentence of death” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). But Paul also knew and believed, “This happened to us that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Jesus, forsaken by His Father because of our sin, was raised from the dead by His Father.

While certain things have seasons that need to end (like an abusive relationship), hope and redemption aren’t things that should die in your heart. It’s possible to hope because our God is the God who raises the dead.

If you believe that, in faith, you’ll believe that he can resurrect your hope.

Here are 10 wonderful tools, tips, and ideas we unpacked this week:

1: Create a PLAN

Use Thanksgiving as an example. Dinner with a friend, volunteering at your church, dinner with family. Have a destination… start with that, and keep reading.


If you are neck deep in the grief process, don’t be afraid to say no to any sort of obligation someone may try and put on you. Hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas at your house and being asked to make the bird of honor may not be the best idea. Especially if you’re having a hard enough time finding the car keys in the morning. Don’t be afraid to simply say “no”.

3: Develop REALISTIC expectations

In being selfish, you (and you alone) have a choice on whether you want to enable a situation that may bring discomfort (if an Ex was invited over by family, etc). If so, communicate to those that matter where you’re at, what you’re feeling, and develop safe boundaries for yourself.

4: Expect POWERFUL emotions

For me, the next 60 days are plagued with powerful “traditions” that are haunting me even writing this. Birthdays to children I love who I’ll never see laugh or smile again. Friends and family I won’t be laughing with, comparing craft beers with, or watching play poker or darts. Traditions of being up all night putting out gifts for the kids who will wake in a few hours; eager to be called to the tree.

And more…

5: Remember the PAST traditions

It’s in a tremendous moment of God given peace that I was able to type the above. I just spent the last 10 minutes, sitting at this keyboard, just visualizing… Remembering the scent of waffles being made Christmas morning, the sound of Redi-Whip cans emptying out at the breakfast table. The scent of turkey stock simmering for hours from what was left over of the bird on Thanksgiving. The sounds of multiple “Happy Birthday” songs being sung, and the very distinct way those who’d celebrate those birthdays uniquely reacted to getting the “one” gift they really wanted.

…I’m actually sincerely smiling right now. 🙂 It may hurt in 5 minutes. But, for the moment, I’m going to live in the memories of those children. How I love and miss them.

6: Acknowledge your PRESENT situation

But, now it’s time to acknowledge that (for me) the above (as great as it was) has passed. It’s not the life God wanted me to have. But I’ll cherish certain moments forever. Now, I have to acknowledge the very real fact that I am a recovering abuse survivor (physical and psychological).

I’m still broken.

I’m very open with my story, and any one who wants to get close to me reads this very blog and understands that. My present situation is that the holidays are loaded with old memories and traditions. My goal and focus in my present is to create new memories and traditions. That, all leads back to *MY* plan for the holidays. I need to remember certain memories, but I also need to rewrite others in my mind. So that means un-barricading the door, and assaulting these memories with eyes wide open.

7: Create NEW/FUTURE traditions

Christmas Eve - 2004 - A very different me, with my 4 month old little pain in my butt!

Christmas Eve – 2004 – A very different me, with my 4 month old little pain in my butt!

As part of your plan, have new things you want to do this year. Try a variety of things. Expose yourself to new things! You never know, you may find yourself looking forward to reliving it again the following year!

Here’s one example I’m doing this year: My kids and I had discovered this little ceramic shop about 10 minutes away. We enjoyed picking out our pottery one day, spending the afternoon glazing them, and then getting lunch after. I like the idea of going out on Black Friday, doing a new ornament each year, and then having it fired and hung on the tree. Each year, when we put our tree up, we’ll be able to have a story to tell through each ornament.

8: Find safe PEOPLE and safe PLACES

Inevitably, someone’s going to want to talk about “it”. Whatever “it” is for you. Your loss, your pain, etc. Make sure you are surrounded by those who will be kind and compassionate.

I write that, but I want you (as I need to myself) to remember, that it’s not a bad thing to talk about what we’ve lost. If anything, bringing it to light, and the memories behind the individual will help you heal. Remembering what a loved one you lost would have been doing at a funny situation happening in front of you. Or, remembering some little limerick they’d always respond with when “A Christmas Story” was on it’s 16th re-run of the day.

9: Give yourself permission to do HEALTHY HIDING

In short.. Don’t be afraid to cut the night off. I’m an extremely outgoing individual (Extrovert to my core). But, remember that healing through grief consumes tremendous amounts of spiritual and emotional energy. Even I (as is testimony to what I’m doing right now) need a quiet night to myself. Quite a few offers of things I could be doing right now. Instead, what do I do? I’m here pouring my heart and thoughts out for you. 🙂 LOL!

When you’ve felt you need some quiet, “Be Selfish” and take your leave.

10: Be aware of the MEANING of the holidays.

At the end of the day, it’s just that… a day. Don’t let a label placed on a day stall your healing and forward progress, all because you want to live in that moment one more time.

It’s just a day. Treat it like yesterday, and treat it like tomorrow.

As I’ve said before: “This too shall pass..”


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