Our lives are a series of beginnings and endings with space for everything in between. There are days fierce competition reigns between the two and other days where they peacefully coexist. The extreme highs and lows sometimes appear as grief versus joy. The push and pull that occurs when devastating loss lingers during a season of first holidays without a loved one is real. But I would like to assure you that you may experience joy in the midst of grief.
I am approaching my first holiday season without my dad. He passed away the end of August after a year of declining health. As hard as this has been, I am now without both of my parents. I am a woman living with loss, but this is the only criteria that makes me stand out. I am not an expert. There is no such thing in this world of loss. What I know for sure is grieving knows no rules and loss reaches across all generations.
In this season of searching for a new normal, I wonder over and over how joy and grief show up in the same room. On a day when loss hangs heavy and emptiness fills the cracks in my heart, I imagine joy is lost forever. But just as soon as the memories overtake my mind, a flash of joy shows up unexpectedly. God lights up the darkest places of my heart and infuses them with His healing love and comfort. He is joy when I feel it is lost forever. He is the comfort for the broken pieces of my heart.
[Tweet “God makes space for joy in the midst of grief by lighting the cracks of our hearts with His love. “]
As the holidays approach this year I want to share some ways to hold your loved one close as you celebrate the season with joy. I am sharing as a woman going through loss who desires a place for grief and joy to coexist.
Give yourself grace and the space to feel every emotion even on the holiday.
This is a tricky idea because others around you expect you to be happy during the holidays. Give yourself grace to remember, cry and feel the loss. Memories bring such joy but also remind you of the deep loss that took a piece of your heart. Let grace wash over the brokenness and begin the process of healing.
Honor the loved one in a special way.
My family lives out of town so when we gather we try to share life as fully as we can. Remembering our parents in prayer, telling our favorite stories or even creating a unique memento is the best gift we will share with each other.
Spend time with family and friends.
Grief shows up at the most unexpected times. The very thought of being vulnerable around other people causes many of us to seek isolation during this season. I am learning how important it is to allow myself to cry and be real with my family and friends. The very act of being with others not only helps in the healing, but allows them to be part of the process too.
Set time aside to pre-grieve.
The holidays under any circumstances bring anxiety and tension. Take time before the holiday arrives to pre-grieve. Visit the gravesite, let yourself feel the heartache, brokenness and emptiness. Give yourself the gift of quiet stillness and let the memories flow freely. When you sit in your brokenness and invite God to join you, He fills the emptiness with His love and peace.
Joy and grief pull us in many directions just as light and shadows play hide and seek on a warm summer day. We find ourselves somewhere between the light and shadows when we sit in the tension of grief. I am learning this is exactly where we meet God, who heals and comfort.
As the holiday season approaches this year, may you hold these words as a doorway to the healing and mending of your broken heart.
There is joy in the midst of grief. When the shadows blanket the heart, God sees and knows what we are feeling.
Even through the pain, there is a point where light sneaks in and in the connection between the two, joy explodes.
God takes time to nurture us through the pain and provides space to not be okay.
Healing takes place when we allow pain and joy to work side by side.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 NLT
May God’s comfort meet you in between the shadows and the light and bring joy in place of grief.
Walking in Christ’s light!
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It may not be easy to see it when you’re grieving but God’s love and light is there.
Thank you for sharing this piece of hope.
I am grateful for God’s light and love. Thank you for sharing your hope with me too. Blessings!
Very beautifully written and you are in my prayers. I can certainly relate to your grief, as my dad and nine-year-old son both passed away in 2007. It is very difficult at times, but God is faithful all of the time! He has given me the “peace that surpasses understanding” and I pray the same for you. May He bless you and keep you! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Rashawnda! I am sorry for your loss and imagine that even though a number of years has passed, you will always miss the piece of you that is now gone. Your sweet words mean so much to me. Grief is tricky and it comes in waves. I am praying for peace too. Your prayers are deeply appreciated. Blessings!
Sweet, Mary, your words are a gentle reminder. Entering the second holiday season without my Dad, just today the grief struck so unexpectedly. Thinking of pies and baking always brings back such wonderful memories. Dad was known for his pies. My heart is with you, friend. I’ll be praying for peace and comfort throughout the season. Many blessings.
PS So looking forward to Saturday! and a long over-due hug 😉
We are both living in a season of grief. Even though you are entering your second holiday season without your dad I imagine that it all seems so fresh since you just had the memorial service. I am praying for you as you move throughout this holiday season. God loves to comfort and I pray we both lean into His strong arms. Love you friend!
Hi Mary! We are sisters in the fact that we both lost our dads this year. I thought I was doing pretty well, but then someone said they’d pray for me because Thanksgiving would be tough the first year. Well, I started tearing up and realized that this holiday season will probably be an emotional one.
Wishing you the grace to feel your emotions, and to give into gratefulness and joy for your fathers wonderful life and legacy.
We truly do have much to be thankful for.
We are sisters in this journey called loss. Grief sneaks up on me when I least expect it and I can be fine one minute and a puddle the next. I miss my dad but love the legacy he left behind. I pray your Thanksgiving is a beautiful gift of family, memories and love.
Thinking of you friend! Reminds me of my fave verse Psalm 30:5
I love that verse and it is true that joy does come in the morning. Have a blessed week!
Mary, this moves me to tears. My heart aches for you. You give such loving, wise advice. That allowing oneself space to grieve, to not to be ok. I’m so grateful that God at times infuses your painful heart with His healing love. I pray your Thanksgiving will be filled with His love, strength, and peace even as your heart misses your dad so much. Hugs!
In the time of loss and heartache, I have a deep sense of peace. God has worked hard inside me and this process began even as my dad was still alive. I believe we learn so much in our pain and I know you have experienced that too. Thanksgiving blessings to you too.
This is beautiful, Mary, and such important advice. Praying for you for this first Thanksgiving without your dad that you know God’s presence and peace and experience lots of joy even in the midst of your grief.
I cherish your prayers. Thank you so much! I am with family for the holiday and that is important to my healing. I pray your week is blessed.
These steps of grief are so important Mary, for healing. I think often, for me anyway, I’ve stuffed my grief, avoided the pain, and then started living life only with a half a heart open when God designed us to live with the eye of the heart fully opened. Have a wonderful, open-heart Thanksgiving celebration this week!
I have tried to stuff emotions and to act as if nothing is wrong. It always makes things worse in the long run. I agree that God wired us to live fully present even when it is the hardest thing we can do. I pray your week continues to be blessed.
This really touched me right where I am today. My grief is not necessarily over someone who has passed away, but an adult child who has chosen to distance herself from me. As a mom, this really makes my heart ache. A chosen separation in some ways is harder than a separation by death. I know she is hurting and her hurt is all directed at me right now. I know that joy and pain can coexist in the same room – in the same heart – but it’s really hard when your emotions vacillate, in roller coaster fashion, between the two. Praying for you, Mary, as you face this “first” without your dad. I have experienced that ache. May your memories be bittersweet and may you find joy amidst the pain…
Blessings sweet friend,
Grief is tricky and even though yours looks different than mine, it still involves loss. A piece of you is gone and you miss whatever is lost. I think one of the most important things I am learning about grief is to allow myself to feel all the feels. It might be messy and it might look a little crazy but it is also healing. I will be praying for you Bev as you seek for your relationship to be healed between your daughter and you. Blessings friend!
Oh, Mary! Thank you for such an encouraging post. I’m going through an intense period of loss right now, and this post is filled with such wisdom. I truly agree that ‘God takes time to nurture us through the pain and provides space to not be okay’, and I’m finding strength in His comfort. Thanks again for the much-needed advice. Praying that you will experience the joy of God’s presence during this first season without your dad. Blessings to you!
Your words are so sweet and my heart hurts knowing that you are suffering. I will be praying for you as you maneuver this new road and learn what your new normal looks like. Blessings to you during this holiday season.
This is such an important offering, friend. I, too, am there but that you already know.
Such wise words … grace and space, and the whole invitation of pre-grieving.
Comfort and peace to you, dear Mary.
We have shared joy and heartache this past year. As much as we wish the loss wasn’t so deep we have learned greatly from each other. Your wisdom in this season has been a blessing to me. Comfort and peace as you share family time knowing that important members are now missing.
There is so much wisdom in your advice to “set aside time” to grieve. My tendency is just the opposite — stay moving and fill the days with busy activity almost as if I believe that forward movement will keep me upright. When we numb our grief, we numb all the other emotions along with it. How much better — and more God-honoring — to let our hearts feel what they feel and know that God is there with us in the midst of it.
I have tried the busy route and ended up in a puddle because I was so overwhelmed. Leaning into God, resting and being with others has been such a gift during this time of grieving. It is not my usual “go to”. It is a matter of trusting God and what He knows we need. Easier said than done! Thanksgiving blessings to you!