As the days shorten and calendar pages are turned, thoughts of holiday celebrations begin to occupy our minds. Amidst your planning may I pose a question — would you consider including the grieving on your holiday guest list?
Kelsey and I share a common grieving experience — as young women the death of our mothers occurred shortly before the holiday season. This month’s post imparts tips about processing grief (Kelsey’s Korner) as well as how to minister to the grieving during the holidays. It is our prayer that it will encourage those experiencing personal grief concurrently with providing insight for how you can perhaps soften the process of others by extending biblical hospitality.
It was October of my eighteenth year of life when my dad stepped into eternity. As a college freshman, I not only had to deal with my own grief, I also faced with the responsibility of helping my aging mother adjust to a new lifestyle.
When Dad died, Mom not only lost her husband of thirty years, she also lost her circle of friends. Suddenly the married couples—my Dad was the first of their group to die—did not know what to do about Mother. Therefore, they did nothing. I believe that because of their withdrawal her grieving process was extended.
Our plight was magnified by the reality that we did not have extended family, and I was an only child. Frankly, the outlook for the holiday season appeared pretty dismal!
As the holidays approached, our neighbors, who embraced a different faith than my family, graciously invited us to share their Thanksgiving celebration with them. The sincere invitation, their effort to fold us into their family, careful menu planning, and intentional conversation focusing on recounting the blessings of the year as well as looking forward to the next turned a potentially miserable day into one of joy.
Grieving individuals are an interesting dichotomy—generally they desperately need fellowship and nourishment but have no desire to mingle or eat. Perhaps these tips will provide guidance as you prayerfully consider including them on your guest list:
Often the grieving are tired, sensitive, lacking appetite, and tense. Plan a meal with protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, and a light dessert since such a menu will assist in defusing some of these emotions. Refrain from serving foods that contain high quantities of caffeine, nitrates, preservatives, or large amounts of sugar or salt, since these ingredients can increase stress levels.
Consult the person, a family member, or someone close to family to determine how best to minister to them during the holiday season. Inquiring about favorite foods is a thoughtful gesture.
As with other forms of hospitality, determine if there are specific dietary constraints that should be considered.
Impart emotional support along with the physical food. Your goal is to mix compassion with consumption!
Remember the grieving once the holidays are over. A myriad of lonely days will undoubtedly stretch before them. Invite them to lunch, coffee, and include them in subsequent holiday celebrations. They may choose to decline the invitations initially, but as the early pain recedes they will one day be ready to say, “Yes, I would love to come.”
Scripture challenges us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). As you consider including the grieving on your holiday guest list, refer to Kelsey’s Korner for valuable insight into the heart of grieving individuals. Her thoughts will allow you to tenderly minister to them.
On September 10th of this year, my mother succumbed to her battle with cancer, left this world, and was welcomed home by her heavenly Father. Because she was saved by God’s grace, her passing was a joyous occasion (Ps. 116:15). However, adjusting to life without my Mom is inexpressibly painful. She was my best friend, the woman whom I trusted the most, and my earthly example of “walking with the Lord”. Unfortunately, until the Lord returns, death is a reality we will all face. As Christians, we need to prepare our hearts and minds for this sober truth. Although the grieving process is different for each person, I pray the lessons I am learning during this season of grieving will be helpful to you.
Refuse to embrace fear. As an outsider looking in, having never experienced a loss of this magnitude, I was terrified. Would I be ok? Could I handle it? I was convinced I would experience a mental breakdown and need to be enter into a mental institution. Yet I learned that God truly, inexpressibly, and graciously gives us strength as we have need (Phil. 4:13, 19). The strength seems impossible and foreign before the Lord administers it, but once we have it, we can do nothing but lift our hands to our Father and thank Him for His gift, knowing it did not come from ourselves. Trust that the Lord will give you strength as you need it—we serve a kind, loving God.
The sting will fade. Before I lost my Mom, people often expressed that you never get over the passing of a loved one. This thought scared me! Would I carry around that constant lump in my throat or cloud over my head forever? I know now what they meant. You never stop loving the people you lose, and you think of them often, as if they are just as much a part of your life as when they were living. The good news is that the sting of the loss does improve with time if we allow it. Early in the grieving process a memory may cause you to burst into tears, but the same memory later will make you smile and laugh. You never stop loving them, but the sting does lessen.
You will experience good times. Grief comes in waves, just like the ocean. At times, your head is above the water. You can breathe and you are floating through life just fine. Then out of nowhere, a wave hits, knocking you over, disorienting you, and leaving you unable to breath. During those times, remember that a break in the waves is more than likely just around the corner—you will not stay underwater forever! Overtime, the frequency of the waves decrease.
Allow yourself time to grieve as you move forward. After a death, people usually tend to lean one of two ways: either they refuse to think about the loss and bury themselves in work and social life, or they think about their loss far too much and refuse to resume their lives, worried they would be dishonoring their deceased loved one if they did. Avoid both extremes! Life continues onward, and we need to go forward with it. Resume your work schedule, laugh with friends, concurrently with allowing yourself times to reflect upon the loss and proceed completely through the grieving cycle.
Grief is absolutely exhausting—make time to rest. Grief fills our minds, creating weary, yet restless, busy-minded sleep. If you find yourself extra tired while grieving, do not be alarmed—it will not last. In anticipation of the exhaustion, it would be wise before and after a loss to limit your activities and commitments, allowing yourself extra time to rest and recover.
Extend grace to people around you. So often people have absolutely no idea how to interact with someone who is grieving. It hurts them to watch you hurt, they DO care, but very few will show they care in the ways you would appreciate. Have grace and purpose to refuse to let others offend you.
Above all else, my time of grief is teaching me to fix my eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith (Heb. 12:2). Loss is difficult, at times lonely, and often confusing, but God’s Word is full of comforting truths. When you are weary, do not forget to run to your heavenly father for wisdom and rest (Matt. 11:28). Remember the hope we have in Him, the promises we have in His Word, and the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Pet. 1:4).
THE EVERYDAY HOMEMAKER’S MONTHLY MEDITATION THOUGHT
God has said, “I am your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though it waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).
Therefore, I may boldly say, “God’s answer to me when I am overwhelmed with grief is straightforward: stop and remember who I am and that I am on your side.”
Blessings on your day as you focus on making your house a home!