7 Difficult Ways Grief Shows Up during the Holidays

7 Difficult Ways Grief Shows Up during the Holidays

7 Difficult Ways Grief Shows Up during the Holidays

When our mother died, I was lost. I stopped looking forward to the holidays. I dreaded Thanksgiving and Christmas. November and December became months I grudgingly plodded through, anxious for the New Year so I could forget the holidays. Although it's been over 30 years since Mommy died, I still grieve her, and that grief shows up many ways between Thanksgiving and New Years.

My mother died in March 1989, and for many years afterward, I was unable to enjoy the holidays. Thanksgiving, which was once one of my favorite holidays, made me sad every year because it made me think about my mother. I missed the smells emanating from the kitchen as I awakened Thanksgiving morning. And no matter who else cooked the Thanksgiving meal, theirs just wasn't like my mother's. Her turkey was always juicy and delicious. Her stuffing and mashed potatoes were perfectly seasoned. Christmas was even worse than Thanksgiving. Although she wasn't able to provide us with the material things our hearts desired, Mommy did the best she could, always making Christmas special. The love she showered upon my siblings and me is something I still miss after all these years.

When our mother died, I was lost. I stopped looking forward to the holidays. I dreaded Thanksgiving and Christmas. November and December became months I grudgingly plodded through, anxious for the New Year so I could forget the holidays. Although it's been over 30 years since Mommy died, I still grieve her, and that grief shows up many ways between Thanksgiving and New Years. 

If you've lost a loved one, the holidays may be stressful for you too. Although Jesus promised us a Comforter (John 16:7), we are still human, and we experience pain and sorrow at the loss of loved ones. 

Here are a few ways grief raises its head during the holidays. 

1. Loneliness

One of the ways grief shows up during the holidays is loneliness. No matter how many parties or other social gatherings you attend, you still feel lonely. The person you miss the most is absent, and although you have other family and friends, no one else can take your loved one's place. So, you exist with a gaping hole in your heart. You may want to feel excitement and joyous; you may even plaster a smile on your face, but the loneliness is real, and it's there. 

2. Depression

According to www.psychiatry.com, depression is "a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act... depression causes feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed."

Grief can cause depression, resulting in you not enjoying the holidays. If you don't get a handle on the loneliness you're experiencing, you may soon find yourself contending with depression. As I reflect on it now, I see I was depressed for many years. And because I refused medication or therapy, I dealt with the depression the best way I knew how, by ignoring it. If you think you're depressed, I encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional.

3. Refusal to participate in activities

Are you Ebenezer Scrooge? Are you the person who hates the holidays? If so, your feelings may be caused by grief. Grief shows up during the holidays, resulting in you not wanting to give nor receive gifts. Perhaps you can't find any beauty or enjoyment in the holidays or complain about the commercialism of Christmas. Grief does that. The pain will make you see only the negative in the holidays.

4. Dwelling on Loss

Grief will also make you focus on what/who you've lost instead of what/who you have. The pain will cause you to reflect on the past and then focus on any hidden shame, regret, or resentment. Such reflection isn't good.

5. Changed in Appetite

A change in appetite is another way in which grief shows up during the holidays. Some people may turn to comfort foods to make themselves feel better, while others may notice a loss of appetite during the holidays. Some people may find that certain foods turn their stomachs during the holidays. 

6. Drug or Alcohol Use

Use of substances may increase during the holidays as some people turn to those vices as a coping mechanism. Again, if you’re experiencing the temptation to turn to drugs and/or alcohol, I encourage you to reach out to a trained professional who can help you overcome the temptation. You don’t have to suffer alone. 

7. Changes in Sleep Patterns

Some people are unable to sleep because of grief. Grief can be so overwhelming that they simply cannot fall asleep. For others, all they want to do is sleep. If you find yourself either sleeping the day away or being unable to sleep during the holidays, please seek out a trusted counselor who can help you. 

These are just some of the ways grief shows up during the holidays. This list isn't meant to be all-inclusive. Instead, it's a brief overview of some of the things people experience during the holidays. I pray what I've written here helps you either seek relief for your grief or enables you to recognize grief in your loved ones. 

It is possible to overcome the effects of grief through the power of Jesus Christ. I believe the key to moving through grief is recognizing it and its symptoms. 

Seeking Help

There are several things you can do to identify and overcome grief. Some people can benefit from the help of a trained mental health professional. If you believe you've struggled with grief for an extended amount of time, seeing a trained therapist, counselor, or a psychologist will be beneficial for you.

Perhaps you don't need to see a trained therapist, choosing instead to share your struggles with a trusted pastor or minister. Some pastors and ministers are trained in counseling, others are not, but they are experienced in assisting people through the grief process. Seeking the assistance of a compassionate, empathetic minister will be beneficial.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to speak with anyone about what you’re experiencing. Instead, you’re suffering alone in silence with a fake smile planted on your face. While I don’t recommend this approach to healing and deliverance, I understand it. In this case, I pray you seek comfort from the Scriptures. 

Comforting Scripture for Grieving during Holiday Seasons

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5)

“Be strong and let our heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalms 31:24)

“I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (see Psalms 46.1)

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“… and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:7)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Aretha Grant serves her local church as a bible teacher and elder. She loves writing and is the author of Overcomer: 25 Keys to Walking Victoriously. Aretha resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband and two youngest children. You can read Aretha’s blog at www.arethagrant.com.

Aretha Grant serves her local church as a bible teacher and elder. She loves writing and is the author of Overcomer: 25 Keys to Walking VictoriouslyAretha resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband and two youngest children. You can read Aretha’s blog at www.arethagrant.com.

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