Holidays are STRESSFUL! Can I get an AMEN?
I personally will knock Norman Rockwell out if I see him walking the streets of gold because he made getting a shot look pleasant! (Sarcasm at its finest.)
I mean really????
For many, the holiday season is filled with loneliness, sadness, grief, and the whole Norman Rockwell picture we have in our pretty little heads does nothing to aid and abet this. In fact, it compounds the problem. Expectations destroy relationships, holidays, vacations, whatever! If you have lost a loved one in the recent past (regardless of how you “lost” them) then you know exactly what I am talking about.
As we think of this time of year our focus is supposed to be THANKSGIVING. Counting our blessings one by one. One of the many gifts we must learn to celebrate is grief. Grief is a gift we give ourselves when we lean into the loss of what we held dear. It is not easy and our culture is not very tolerant of grief. True grief, remembers what was, celebrates what was good, and then in time moves forward using the lessons learned to invest and inspire others. Walking through grief with someone is also a priceless gift. Discovering the gifts of silence and just being present. Being a companion through the process of “going to the wilderness of the soul” without trying to point the way out of the wilderness. Grief is not a condition to be treated but to come alongside of for as long as is needed. Grief is not depression complete with an ICD-10 code, it is a state of being. It is what one is experiencing at a given point in time.
Jesus himself had grief and He wept! He was full of compassion and he felt the pain of others intensely. He fed the hungry, he healed the blind, lame, deaf, lepers, mentally ill, and raised the dead. He was moved by the plight of the widow, the orphan, the outcast. Because he cared, lives were changed. He challenges us to do the same:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (NIV)
Often during the holiday season, food pantries are filled, money is donated, gifts are purchased for the poor, incarcerated, elderly, and organizations fulfill their civic obligation to improve the lives of others. What of the other 10 months of the year. These same people are lonely, hungry, in need of medicine, clothing, transportation, and the list is endless. What if we each chose a different month for the coming year and made an additional donation, took time to volunteer, to go visit a shut-in, to provide food/serve in a soup kitchen, to take a homeless person to lunch or home with us for a shower, hot meal and good night sleep, to _________________(you fill in the blank). The opportunities are endless. We can all do something. You will not have to look far to see a need.
I have spent years studying grief and bereavement. It is called Thanatology. I have learned much. I am thankful for the losses I have shared for each represents a past gift of priceless value. A life. A job. A career. A hobby. A pet. A time period. By laying down these gifts, we make room for new gifts to come and fill our lives. It is not a replacement. It is a whole new beginning. Something to celebrate!
Each of these losses represents your life: well lived, well loved, well learned. Gifts from on high, more gifts to come. Give thanks. Thanksgiving precedes the Miracle. (November 4, 2015 post)
This is giving thanks in all things at its finest. It IS Much! (November 9, 2015 post) It is much for you, for those you love, for the whole world.
Counting griefs as gifts,