Surviving the holidays when you don't feel like celebrating

by Mary Ann Bradberry, posted Wednesday, December 24, 2003 (16 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Planning and shopping for the holidays can be stressful enough, but coping with holiday festivities after a loss or traumatic event can be overwhelming. Sights, sounds and smells of the holidays can trigger memories of a person who died, a past job or past family gatherings. Keeping family traditions may seem impossible, but getting through the holidays is part of the process of recovery.

How can you survive the holiday season when you do not feel like celebrating?

How can you help children through the grieving process when you're not sure of the journey yourself?

Harold Ivan Smith, in his book, "Decembered Grief," gives tips to surviving the holidays when you do not feel like celebrating:

-- Anticipate the holidays. Approach the holidays with determination to treasure the memory of a loved one. Writing a letter to the deceased loved one allows you to express your feelings about the person's absence. Making a scrapbook helps you focus on important memories and also helps preserve photographs, newspaper clippings and other valuable items.

-- Maintain routines. Children have great expectations at Christmas, and they need to know that life continues even after a major loss. Maintaining routines and giving lots of hugs and reassurance will bring feelings of security for children.

-- Involve children in making plans. Allow them to express their needs and wishes. In situations of divorce, children will be anxious about where they will spend Christmas, how and when presents will be opened, and whether they will be visiting grandparents as they have done in the past.

-- Alter traditions. You may be tempted to forget past family traditions altogether. Consider altering them instead. Give yourself permission to create new traditions. Involve and take suggestions from your children, but realize that you may experience anger that your traditions and celebrations have been altered.

-- Appreciate your grief. Recognize that grief will be a reality and give yourself permission to cry, even at unexpected times. Schedule time alone if necessary. Ecclesiastes 3:4 assures us that there is a time for weeping and mourning. And remember it is okay to let your children see you cry.

-- Acknowledge God. Grief was not unknown to Jesus Christ. He grieved the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13) and wept at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35).

Even in sorrow, hope is alive for Christians. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 reminds us that Christians are not "to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." Through hope in Jesus Christ, sorrow will not go on forever.

Even though Christians are not protected from sorrow, God will show compassion (Lamentations 3:32-33). Prayer also provides a place to acknowledge your fears, sadness and loneliness to God. God will comfort you as a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13).

So this Christmas, if you are searching for hope in your sorrow, find a nativity scene and ponder Mary's expression as she cradles her newborn son. Then rejoice that God is cradling and comforting you in the same loving way. That's something to celebrate!


Adapted from the article, "Surviving the Holidays?" in the December issue ParentLife, a magazine published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Subscription information can be obtained by sending e-mail to subscribe@lifeway.com or calling customer service at 1-800-458-2772.

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