Grieving Through the Holidays

How am I going to make it through tomorrow?  Some of you are asking yourself this exact question as tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is hard, but Holidays without your loved one is the hardest.

I can still remember my first Thanksgiving without my kids, four years ago.  It was honestly one of the hardest days of my life.  It was the first Big Holiday without them, and the reality of having to share my time with the kids at Holidays was too much to bear.

I remember calling a friend that afternoon and just crying.  The void of my kids not with me was very real.  I originally just wanted to get through the day, but by evening, I honestly just wished the day would be over with already.  Maybe you can relate.

If you are facing this upcoming Holiday and someone special in your life is missing, let me say that I am so sorry.  I know the hurt and pain you are experiencing is very real.  So, what are you to do when grief comes in and steals your joy around each Holiday?  How do you handle loss as it comes in and interrupts your special family traditions you have made for your family?

I found some answers the next morning after my first Holiday without my kids; God shared some truth with me through a devotional by Rick Warren.  God’s timing was perfect for me to hear exactly what I needed in the midst of my heartbreak.   His devotional was called “Trusting God through Gratitude” and his message touched my hurting heart.  I hope it does the same for you.

Rick said, “How does gratitude develop my faith? It happens when times are tough — when things don’t make sense, when you can’t figure it out, when your prayers are unanswered, when everything is going the way you didn’t want it to go. It happens when you can say in those circumstances, “God, I know you’re in control. I know you love me, and I know you can bring good out of this. I’m thankful that you’re bigger than my problem.”

Listen to my favorite part of the devotional: Rick says, “That is the ultimate test of the depth of your faith. Can you thank God when life stinks?”

“When you’re going through tough times, don’t look at what’s lost. Look at what’s left and be grateful for it!”

I realized that the day before, I had focused on what I had lost.  I was grieving my first big Holiday without my kids and I could only see what was missing.  But now, God was reminding me to look at what was left.  There were many things that I could focus on and be grateful for even in the middle of my loss.  This new way of looking at things changed my life.

So, I spent the entire Friday morning after one of the hardest days of my life, journaling about all the wonderful blessing that I still had in my life.  Of course, my kids were at the top of the list along with my amazing time with God.  I thanked God for my friends who were so supportive and encouraging to me.  I wrote about my family who loved me and cared about me.

This simple choice to practice gratitude shifted my entire attitude.  Even though my circumstances did not change, my perspective did.

So, if you are struggling with a loss, I encourage you to do the same thing.  Don’t focus on what is lost.  Instead, focus on the blessings that God has surrounded you with and praise Him even when your heart is still broken in pieces.

Let me say a quick side note here: I know this is not easy to do especially in the first year of your grieving.  The first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first Mother’s Day, or first Father’s Day without your loved one will be some of the hardest days of your grief.

Give yourself lots of grace.

Please do not put any expectations on yourself to do the same traditions you have done in the past.  Instead surround yourself with people that love you and can cry with you when you are hurting.  Your goal is to get through the day.

However, when you are ready, I recommend trying this.  I found it very helpful along my journey from heartbreak to strength.  Remember you are not thanking God for the loss.  Instead you are thanking God for what is left, what is not loss. You can thank Him for who He is.  You can thank Him for family and friends.  Focus on all the blessings still in your life.

Dear God, Please be with all those who are grieving the loss of someone special this Thanksgiving. I pray you give them your love and comfort as well as your strength to make it through the day.  Be close to them especially tomorrow as Holidays without loved ones is the hardest. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

Have you put a period where God placed a comma?

“Don’t put a period where God places a comma!”

These words were shared by Pastor Buddy Owens at Saddleback Church this weekend as he preached an amazing sermon called Trusting God Through Trouble.

We looked at the verses written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, by not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Are you feeling knocked down by disappointments or difficulties in your life?  Do you feel pressed on every side by the weight of your circumstances?  Are you confused and perplexed as to why God has you walking through a season of grief or heartbreak right now?

I am so sorry if you are in the middle of a storm right now.  I have been there, so I know how incredibly hard it can be.  Let me encourage you today with this amazing truth I learned from our pastor.

“Your troubles are not the end of your story. Instead, they are the beginning of a greater story.”

As we studied these verses in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, the pastor noticed there were commas after each descriptive word, not a period.

  • “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
  • Perplexed, by not in despair;
  • Persecuted, but not abandoned;
  • Struck down, but not destroyed.”

A period signifies the end of a sentence, but a comma shows that there is still more to come.  I think it is important that we view our lives this same way. These feelings you are experiencing right now: hard pressed, grief, heartbreak, confusion….. they are real emotions that you will want to allow yourself time to process and feel in order to heal, but they are not the end of your story.

“Don’t put a period where God places a comma!”

I know someone needs to hear this message today.  This storm you have been facing has lasted longer than you thought.  The emotions are weighing on you and pressing you down.  You are struggling to see any light in the midst of the dark.

If you are feeling hopeless, I want to encourage you today to exchange the period you placed at the end of your difficult circumstance with a comma.  You may feel hard pressed on every side (comma), but you are not crushed.  You may feel struck down (comma), but you are not destroyed.

God is not finished with your story.  He wants to give you beauty for your ashes and purpose for your pain.

He has a plan bigger than you can even imagine and He wants you to trust Him even when you cannot understand. Fall back into His loving arms today and ask Him to give you His strength as you walk through this difficult season.

Remember this is not the end of your story but the beginning of an even greater story.

Love, Jodi