Their chair is vacant. Or maybe crazy Uncle Charlie has staked his claim on it—the place your loved one normally occupied at the table during holiday dinners. You thought you overcame the sorrow of the loss, because you’ve stopped looking for them in crowds or for their number on your ringing phone.
But it’s the holidays.
On top of that it’s 2020.
The holiday season has a way of bringing that old familiar pain around again; especially if it’s the first without them. What happens if you find your holiday season robbed of joy by grief? How do you find gratefulness in the grief of 2020.
The Lesson I Learned:
I’ve experienced great loss during a holiday season. In 2014, my sister, Tricia, passed away from breast cancer between Thanksgiving and Christmas. When I think back to that year, I don’t remember good food, what gifts I received, or the Christmas tree; instead, rushes to the emergency room, pressing the button to her pain pump, a memorial service, and passing around the tissue box comes to mind.
I learned a valuable lesson regarding gratefulness, at the end of my sister’s life, from two women who signed on to sit and care for her on weekdays. One of them was our beloved cousin Kim, who’d known the heartbreak of loss, after losing two of her three sons. Her first born died at the age of one, due to complications after a liver transplant. The other stood up one afternoon and fell over from a sudden heart attack, while in his early twenties. How do you survive after losing two of your children?
The other woman’s name was Kim as well. Kim—nicknamed KK—was like a sister to Tricia and I growing up. While in Virginia attending her grandmother’s funeral, KK’s husband, whom she loved, served her with divorce. She was blind-sighted and didn’t know what to do or where to go. So, she did the only thing she could, she returned to Hawaii packed up her things and moved back to her hometown. KK buried her own pain in order to help my sister with hers.
One day, while KK was sitting with Tricia, I thanked her for jumping in and helping out.
“Don’t mention it,” she said. “It gives my mind something else to focus on besides myself and my own problems.”
Another day, I visited during my cousin’s shift. I noticed she’d put on makeup and had a pretty dress on. When I mentioned she looked too dressed up to be sitting with Tricia all day, Kim said something powerful.
“You know something. I haven’t felt joy in a very long time. Taking care of your sister has given me the most joy. I look forward to my day to come take care of her.”
And there it was…the balm for a grieving soul…
Examples from the Bible:
There are examples throughout the Bible that the giving of one’s self spills joy into sadness. Take Ruth… when Ruth lost her husband, instead of returning to her people the Moabites, she followed Naomi, her mother-in-law, to Bethlehem. Here, Ruth poured herself into meeting the needs of Naomi, by gleaning the farming fields.
Another example can be found in the encouraging book of Philippians written by an imprisoned Paul who’d lost everything and faced imminent death. Instead of allowing grief to overtake him, Paul gave of himself by writing encouraging letters to the churches about having joy no matter what your circumstance. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4: 4 and 7 (ESV).
Then there’s Jesus. He washed his disciple’s feet the night he knew He would be betrayed by his friend. While nailed to a cross, He set aside His own pain to give hope and salvation to the thief hanging beside Him.
An amazing thing happens when you take the time to see outside of yourself and serve someone else during a grieving season—another “G” word becomes the result. Gratefulness.
You become more aware of your own blessings beyond your hurt. It’s an opportunity to witness the grief of others.
If you are suffering a loss this holiday season, know there is a time for grieving. Taking the time to grieve over a loved one’s passing, a divorce, the loss of a job, your broken expectations, or a prodigal child, is healing. However, our grieving should never squelch the light of Jesus in our lives. If it is robbing us of our joy and peace, we must evaluate if we believe our loss is bigger than our God.
It’s Just a Season:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance,” Eccles 3:1,2a, and 4.
Solomon described it as seasons, just as we seamlessly flow from fall into winter, with each season lasting three months, our lives should also move from one season into another. If we find ourselves stuck in a season of mourning, we will miss the season of dancing.
Another article about seasons can be read here: Rainy Seasons
This holiday, when you feel the desire to memorialize your loved one’s chair, offer the place to your crazy Uncle Charlie. Instead of letting your loss rob you of your joy this season, ask God to reveal a need you could pour your time and energy into. Soon your servant’s heart will become a grateful one too.
|English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.|