The Norman Transcript

November 21, 2013

Grieving during the holidays

Dr. Wade Smith
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — I was a young father enjoying life. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. I was in church with my wife and 3-year-old daughter. During the last hymn of the morning, a wave of grief swept over me. It was an unexpected emotion that I was not prepared for, nor fully able to understand.

Bewildered and confused, I wondered what was up. Our only daughter was pure joy and blessing to us. Twin daughters were scheduled for delivery that week. Marriage, ministry, health and school were all fantastic. So, why the grief?

And then it dawned on me, this would be the last time that my family of three would ever be together in worship. From that Sunday forward, our family would be five. Our family was changing, and it would never be the same again.

My first encounter with grief made a profound impact on me. I realized that even in the midst of good times, grief often shares the stage. Grief is the natural way we protect ourselves, process and cope with the changes and emotions of life.

Sometimes those changes result from death and loss, but sometimes those changes result from the good and natural progressions of life. Grief is good for us, but only as we recognize it and work through it in healthy ways.

Those unable to process their grief struggle to move ahead. Some tragically spiral downward in despair and depression, finding themselves detached from life and those they love.

The holidays begin next week. Despite all the “hustle and bustle,” we look forward to the excitement and good-will of the season. We reunite with family and friends for special meals and gatherings.

We love to give and receive gifts. We find joy and strength in the enthusiasm, energy, and anticipation of our children. The holiday spirit seems to infect us all and make this the “best time of the year.”

Yet, the holidays also can be some of the most grief-filled days of the year. In the midst of the joy, we find ourselves struggling with the losses of life. The death of a family member means that their spot around the Thanksgiving table will be vacant and that their stocking will be empty — if we hang it at all.

The loss of a job means that gifts under the tree may be sparse. The wounds of a divorce reopen with the realization that the kids won’t be home for the holidays. The grief this time of the year seems to be at its greatest. What are we to do? How can we cope? Should we just forget the holidays this year?

The Apostle Paul declares that those in Christ Jesus grieve differently than those who have no hope. Paul is not saying that those in Christ do not grieve. Rather, he is teaching us to grieve, yet to grieve with hope.

We grieve with hope when we acknowledge the sorrow of missing those who are no longer with us but celebrate their ongoing contribution to our lives. We grieve with hope when we prepare for tomorrow, instead of cling to yesterday.

We grieve with hope because the Christmas Child is the Easter Savior who promises new life in the midst of our grief, both now and for eternity.

The holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy life and relationships. Yet, as we gather around Thanksgiving tables and Christmas trees this year, let us acknowledge our loss and grieve. But let us not remain in our grief.

Let us remember and practice giving thanks. Let us look to the Christ child and find hope and comfort for today and the promise of life and eternity for tomorrow. Peace.

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