Grieving During the Holidays

Vivian Bricker

Contributing Writer
Published Nov 11, 2021
Grieving During the Holidays

Even when our feelings may tell us otherwise, we need to mentally remind ourselves that God is always there with us—no matter where we find ourselves.

Fall and Winter welcome the festive holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both of these holidays are many individuals' favorite celebrations of the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are known to be times to spend with family and friends. Long-lasting memories can be made on these two special days. However, for those who have recently lost loved ones, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be rather painful. If you are one of those individuals today, take heart that you are not alone.

My Personal Dealings with Grief:

I personally understand the pain, sadness, and loneliness that come from losing a loved one near the holidays. My mom passed away in mid-October when I was a teenager. Her death was unexpected as she was so young. From my eyes, she was far too young to die. Thanksgiving and Christmas that year was extremely painful and I did not see a reason as to why the remainder of our family should even celebrate the holidays. After all, Mom was no longer there. Growing up, my Mom simply loved decorating the house for the holidays, getting everyone into the right spirit, and cooking delicious meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. She was a ray of sunshine who loved the Lord with all her heart. It was commonplace on Thanksgiving and Christmas for Mom, Dad, my two sisters, and our humble dog to spend the entire day together, which was a rare occurrence in our household due to my mom’s work schedule. Whether it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, Mom would start early with cooking and even prepare a special meal for our adopted uncle who lived down the street from us. My Mom was always thinking of others and how she could help them. On Thanksgiving Day, she would usher in my two sisters and me to help cook the Thanksgiving meal, set the table, and clean up afterwards. Likewise on Christmas, my mom went out of her way to make the day special: a dazzling Christmas tree adorned with lights, ornaments, and a shining angel on the top was always a staple for our household. 

My Mom had a way of filling every room with the love of Jesus. The year she passed away and every year since then has never been the same. Mom is no longer here to dance through the house and have us help her decorate the tree. There is no Christmas music playing because no one wants to hear the joyful songs echoing from the past. The twinkling lights on the Christmas tree do not seem to glisten as they once did when I used to help Mom wrap them around the tree. Instead of Thanksgiving and Christmas being holidays filled with gladness of heart, happiness, and laughter, they became holidays of loneliness, pain, and grief. Personally speaking, I did not want to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. I wanted to hide under my covers and cry until I cried myself to sleep. There was no sunlight anymore—I only felt deep, dark sadness. 

Can you relate to this pain and grief? Have you lost a loved one this year? Or maybe you lost a loved one many years ago, but the pain is still there? Friend, you are not alone. Even if you may feel alone, you are not truly alone. God is greater than our feelings. Our feelings are polluted by sin and based on circumstances. Even when our feelings may tell us otherwise, we need to mentally remind ourselves that God is always there with us—no matter where we find ourselves. The Lord promises to never leave you (Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 23). He is always standing beside you and giving you strength (2 Timothy 4:17). 

Know Your Limitations.

You may be wondering whether or not to celebrate the holidays this year. The pain from losing a loved one may be unbearable. It might be unimaginable to even fathom celebrating the holidays without your deceased loved one. I know I have felt like this at each Thanksgiving and Christmas since my mom’s death. It can seem wrong to even celebrate the holidays with the absence of your loved one, so it is vitally important for you to be aware of your own limitations. If there is a certain holiday activity that particularly triggers you or causes you intense sadness, do not participate in that activity (Jeff Forrey, “Grief During the Holidays,” Biblical Counseling Coalition, 2019). Maybe your dad passed away and you used to always watch football with him on Thanksgiving. Instead of watching football, choose to do something different. Maybe help out in the kitchen or help your cousin color a picture. Recognize that certain times of the day could be potentially difficult for you. Do not walk into holidays after the passing of a loved one and assume you will be fine. Grieving is normal and it is a normal part of healing. Jesus wept bitterly at the death of His dear friend Lazarus (John 11:35). Even though God does not promise to remove us from difficult seasons of life, He does promise to walk with us through them. The Lord knows the same pain you are experiencing and He yearns to give you healing. He wants you to come to Him with all of your pain, anxiety, and grief (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus wants to provide healing to your soul and He can. All you have to do is let Him into your heart and pour your heart out to Him. The Lord knows how painful losing a loved one is and He wants to walk alongside you in your pain. He can give you strength when you are too weary to stand. 

Don’t Isolate Yourself.

It can be extremely tempting to separate yourself from the rest of the world during the holidays; however, it is vital that you avoid isolating yourself from others. Satan wants to isolate you so you will feel even worse. Loneliness and grief can be helped by spending time with other living family members and friends. Your family and friends can help support you, offer a listening ear, and simply sit with you even if you do not want to talk (Angela Morrow, “Holiday Survival Strategies for Coping With Grief,” VeryWell Health, 2020). Friends from church can also pray with you and give you encouragement. Just remember not to isolate yourself even if the temptation is strong. You do not have to be your same bubbly self that you were before your loved one passed away, but your friends and family would love to have your company even if you choose not to say anything. The year after my mom passed away, I apologized to a dear friend for not saying anything during our annual Friendsgiving, but she told me, “There’s no reason to apologize. Just you being there made it special.” What my kind friend told me, I’m sharing with everyone who takes the time to read this article. I know the pain is unbearable and it can feel at times like you are choking under the weight of living, but know that there are people who care about you. Your friends and family truly love you and want to make sure you are alright. Spending time with them might even make you smile in the midst of your grief. 

Remember Jesus.

The most important thing to remember when you are grieving during the holidays is to know that God is with you. The Bible tells us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). God never wanted anyone to die. He created Adam and Eve to live with Him forever in the perfect paradise of Eden. Due to Adam and Eve’s disobedience, they sinned and fell from grace (Genesis 3:1-24). Now, all people will pass away because of the original sin (Romans 6:23). But, one day, you will be reunited with your loved one and you will live forever with them in Heaven, worshipping the Lord. You will see your loved one again and nothing will be able to take away your joy. The Lord tells us, “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). Take heart, dear friend. You are not alone. God will walk with you through the holidays and He will give rest to your grieving soul. 

Photo Credit: © GettyImages/Kerkez

Vivian BrickerVivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.