Grieving and Getting Through the Holidays

Grieving and Getting Through the Holidays

Is there an empty place at your table this Christmas? For many, this will be their first holiday season without their loved one. It’s okay to remember them. This year, my dad is celebrating his third Christmas in heaven. We recently visited dad’s grave at the beautifully decorated Central Valley veteran’s cemetery; a moving experience to see hundreds of natural pine wreaths with their bright red bows placed lovingly in front of each white marble headstone. Dad would have loved it.

My new husband Jim and I began decorating for Christmas in our new home Thanksgiving weekend. He and I, both previously widowed, have found joy in putting thought into our new Christmas traditions as we blend our families and lives together. As I’ve pulled out my favorite Christmas decorations, finding just the right place for them, we’ve been able to share a lot of good memories but I’ve also been ambushed by grief. This is my eighth Christmas since my first husband --Pastor Paul’s fatal motorcycle accident tore him from my arms and caused his untimely home-going. I treasure joyful Christmases past with my late husband and elementary-aged children. I cherish revisiting the family memories (pajama-clad on Christmas morning, donning ‘gay apparel’ with our pet cats, dogs and selves in Santa hats for the annual photo shoot). Accepting the harsh reality that my first husband will no longer be part of my future is an important part of my healing process.

"You and I will be different because of our grief,” says H. Norman Wright. This is true. However, as grievers, we have a choice. Will you let grief take you to a place of compassion for others? Or will you be stuck in selfishly running awful-izing circles around your own losses? (Awful-lizing circles convince us that our situation is worse than anyone else’s and that God doesn’t care about us. This is a lie.) I chose to refuse to believe the lies grief tried to tell me by working through the “Five Tasks of Grief” by Dr. De Vries, shared in Nancy & David Guthrie’s GriefShare Recovery Group. 

I chose to refuse to believe the lies grief tried to tell me.

  • Accept the fact your loved one has died and is not able to return.
  • It takes about six to nine months for the heart to catch up to what the mind knows is true. Take time to grieve.
  • Give appropriate release to all of your emotions.
  • Emotions need to be expressed, not pent up. Don’t store them; they always come out, one way or another.
  • Separate and store the memories of your loved one.
  • When your loved one died, their history has stopped. When you treasure or recall memories, it makes room for you to move on.
  • Separate your own identity from what it was with your spouse or loved one. My loved one died. Their history ended; everything now about my loved one is in the past tense.
  • Reinvest in life—to God who has called you to be and to do.
  • Realize you still have purposes that far outlive your loved one.

Jim and I are intentionally blending our families, Christmas decorations and traditions while assimilating our lives. It has been fun but also a lot of work. We’ve had to pay attention to our feelings about things when we feel hurt, lost or overwhelmed. We are greatly encouraged that God is blending our future with His purposes. We continue to trust Him with the prospective opportunities, excited to see what God shows us next. Together, we want to remember God’s promises are enough to help us stand firm and look forward to our future.

We stand on God’s precious and magnificent promises. Grief can change us when we “lean into our personal grief.” This means to “grieve our own grief” and let our grief take us where it will. We can’t go around, over, under our grief, but we can put effort into moving through our grief. Won’t you stand with us? 

We stand on God’s precious and magnificent promises.

“God heals the brokenhearted, he binds up their wounds.” —Psalm 34:18

“The day you die is better than the day you are born.” —Ecclesiastes 7:1

“The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For the godly who die will rest in peace.” —Isaiah 57:1–2

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” —John 14:2

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will pass away.” —Revelation 21:4

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for eternal life. Thank you for allowing us to know without a shadow of doubt that you are preparing a place for us. Heal our broken hearts, bind up our wounds. Thank you that you provide peace, comfort, and hope. May we freely give to others what you have so generously given us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Sheryl Giesbrecht

Exchanging hurt for hope is Sheryl Giesbrecht’s focus—a message she shares with audiences as a radio and television personality, author and speaker. A dynamic teacher and motivating leader, Giesbrecht has endured many changes and challenges, moving her to a deep faith, trust and dependence on God.

She served as Focus on the Family's columnist for Pastor's Wives for four years. Hundreds of her columns, magazine and devotional articles have appeared in Focus on The Family Magazine, Just Between Us, Discipleship Journal, CCM, Walk Thru the Bible’s - InDeed and Tapestry publications.

Giesbrecht’s radio show, “Transformed Through Truth” is nationally and internationally syndicated and heard daily by over 10 million listeners on networks across the United States. The Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network shares the show internationally on seven continents. “Transformed Through Truth” launched as a 30-minute internet television teaching feature in March 2017. To view this amazing teaching time, go to www.HSBN.tv.

Sheryl has a heart for missions and is avid about reaching out to the poor and needy, locally through the Rescue Mission and worldwide through various ministry partners. Giesbrecht is a Lead Like Jesus Facilitator and missionary with Freedom In Christ Ministries (www.FICM.org) and has been personally involved with equipping hundreds and facilitating the training of thousands of leaders internationally. Sheryl’s latest book is entitled It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth.

The joys of Giesbrecht’s life are her children and thirteen grandchildren. She is excited about the new beginning she shares with her marriage to Dr. Jim Turner. Sheryl holds a Bachelor of Arts from Biola University, a Master’s in Ministry and a Doctorate of Theology.

Learn more about Sheryl Giesbrecht on her website, www.FromAshesToBeauty.com. She also invites readers to follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter (@SGiesbrecht).