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.

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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.

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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.

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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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