LIFE COACHING - Dealing with Grief
THE CHRISTMAS EMOTIONAL FRUIT BASKET
My personal grief
My father died at noon on a Christmas day when I was 20 years old. I can understand why people grieve during holiday season. Although my father had been ill for several years, I felt a bizarre combination of shock, loss, and relief. I even felt joy because he was finally out of pain and with Jesus. During the next few months, those emotions constantly bounced around inside of me until I felt like my mind was playing the old children’s game of Fruit Basket Turn Over. One day, I was able to feel joyful, the next, I grieved, the next I felt totally lost. The next, I would experience a rush of spiritual joy.
Late on that Christmas afternoon, we returned to our apartment, When I opened the door, I heard joyful voices singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas!” In our haste, we had left the Christmas music playing. The colorful lights on our tree were cheerfully twinkling, seeming to mock my father’s death.“How could anybody die on Christmas day?” I asked myself. Everything felt surreal. I felt a little crazy, but later I learned that my feelings were the normal responses to shock and grief.
Until my father died, I had not experienced the death of anyone close to me. I had no idea how to bear grief. Our youngest son was expected to be born in one month. So I decided to ignore my grief and I pretended that my father was still alive until our son was born. That sounds a little crazy, too, but I know now that it was the only way I could temporarily cope. When our son was born, I had to face the loss of my father and learn how to bear grief.
I know that many people are experiencing loss at this time of year. For example, some of you may have been divorced since the last Christmas. One of your sons or daughters may be at war. A friendship may have been broken over the last year. Health problems may have robbed you of many activities that were common to your life before this year. Someone you love may have died.
Grief is an experience that is common to everyone. Nobody who has ever lived on this earth has been able to avoid it, but it often comes to us in our ignorance. We can easily be overwhelmed and stuck in grief for years if we do not have some insight into the experience.
Since the year that my father died, I have learned 3 things that help me with grief. I pray that they will be helpful to you.
First, Grief usually comes in waves, which last about 20-30 minutes. The body cannot sustain such strong grieving for much longer than that. After my father died, I had been afraid that such strong grief would just consume me. I feared that my grief would drag me down into a dark hole and I would never be able to come out again.
When I found out that the waves had a limit, I felt safe to let go, to cry, talk or write my feelings. In the months that followed, the grief waves also came less and less. I learned that the Holy Spirit is the God of all comfort (II Corinthians 1: 1-3) and I learned to ask Him to enter those grief waves with me. He did and He brought comfort. The grief hurt, but I wasn’t nearly as afraid.
2-I learned that emotions don’t know time and space. Memories are stimulated through the senses. For example, you may hear a familiar song that takes you emotionally back to a very sad place. The smell of potpourri may cause you think of familiar, previous family rituals that can no longer occur. The sight of a Christmas ornament can remind you of people who are no longer alive.
A few years after my father died, an uncle came to visit us. As I hugged him, I smelled Old Spice cologne, which had been my father’s favorite. Suddenly, I felt like a helpless twenty-year-old whose heart had just been broken. I didn’t know how to come forward emotionally and I got stuck in a miserable emotional state that Christmas.
Now I remind myself to pay attention to my senses. before holiday season begins. I began to say to myself, “That was then and this is now.” I learned to pause between the stimuli and my response. I began to practice enjoying what I have “now”, rather than automatically letting myself move emotionally backward in my mind. I learned to begin to celebrate the season for what it is“right now” in my life, remembering the birth of Jesus, counting the ways His birth has brought blessings and joy into my life.
This was a discipline that I had to practice and year by year, this process has helped me live in the present.
Time and confine your feelings
We do not need to ignore our feelings altogether, but it is helpful to deliberately make a time and place for them.
I began to set aside a period of time to think about my father. Sometimes I wrote about him in a journal. Other times I talked about him to my children, sometimes I lit a Christmas candle and gave thanks for him. I also looked through a scrapbook of my childhood. However, I placed a time limit on my grief and nostalgia.
I had to exercise my will to do this, making a decision to invest most of my energy in the family members who were still with me, serving friends and strangers who had needs. I invested my energy more and more into serving than grieving, creating new memories, rather than looking back so much.
Years from now, you may find yourself writing or telling your grief story. Your pain will be less because you will have experienced our Lord’s comfort. You will have practiced the process of grieving. You will know that every day is a new day. You will be trained to help others in grief, just as our Lord promised.
Again, count on His Word: Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
-Copyright-Lynda Elliott-Life Coach-2009-Little Rock, AR. 72212