Christmas and the holiday season are especially difficult for those who have recently lost a loved one.
Miriam Neff, founder of Widow Connection has been there and she offers wise advice for family and friends of those facing loss, as well as words of hope for moving ahead.
Grieving the loss of a loved one is an extremely difficult process. Miriam suggests we start by taking a look at our expectations, specifically around holiday traditions.
“That big word expectation is huge and important because we’ve had our traditions, or we’ve had how things were in the past and often we think, ‘Well, they’ll kind of be like that next year…or this season.’
“I can tell you, not only from my personal experience but from many people’s experiences, there will be disappointments and there will be things where it isn’t the same.”
Our emotions can rise when we least expect them to and it’s important for us to be aware of the very real grief we are experiencing.
“Maybe you do the tradition where the children come to your home, but dad’s not there and it feels different.”
“Their emotions will be more raw if they’re trying to cover it up, and you’ll think, ‘I’ve got to make that green bean casserole’ and then you think, ‘Nobody but Bob likes green bean casserole’ and you end up crying over green bean casserole.”
Miriam reminds us that covering up the emotions we feel, doesn’t take away the void in our heart. Our expectations will eventually need to change.
“A void is a void and the void refuses to stay a void and wants to be filled with something. Unfortunately, we can try to fill that void with handing out or buying too many presents or retail therapy or some of these other things, but just to recognize that, ‘I’m going in thinking x will happen’ and it will not be like that. It won’t. There might be some moments that are tender and good, but they’re probably going to be some painful moments as well.”
Our first tendency might be to avoid even bringing up the name of that person, but Miriam says that would be the most painful approach. She offers helpful tips for remembering our loved ones:
“Go ahead and say, ‘I remember. I remember how that person tore open a gift. I remember how that person loved cinnamon tea.’ Tell of something funny about their life or a lighthearted memory.”
We are all encouraged walk alongside people who are grieving the loss of a loved one this holiday season.
“We haven’t forgotten that person; they’re already on our mind so you’re not bringing to our attention something, you’re comforting us by saying, ‘Yeah, we all miss him.’ We may miss him differently or we may miss her differently, but we acknowledge that life…that person that’s not here today.”
Find more helpful advice and encouragement in Miriam’s book titled Not Alone: 11 Inspiring Stories of Courageous Widows from the Bible.