How to Be Thankful When Grieving

Vivian Bricker

Contributing Writer
Updated Sep 21, 2023
How to Be Thankful When Grieving

Thankfulness and grief can co-exist if you allow them.

For many, the start of a new season or the upcoming holidays can cause them to feel depressed. My mom passed away during the fall time and it was the first year she wasn't around for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before my mom's passing, I was always excited for the holidays; however, after her passing, I have been less than thrilled to see the calendar change from the summer months to the fall and winter months. Rather than leaving me with feelings of excitement, love, and joy, the feelings of dread, depression, and hopelessness sink into my bones. 

If you can relate to any of this, know you are not alone. It is hard to be full of joy or happiness during holidays when you don't even feel like getting out of bed in the morning. Try your best because your best is more than enough. Maybe you don't feel up to attending the family Thanksgiving celebration or the Christmas Eve get-together, and that is completely okay. Recognize your own boundaries and don't stretch yourself too thin. 

Grieving During the Holidays 

Even though my mom passed away almost a decade ago, I am still grieving. If you have faced grief, you know how painful it is and how long it can last. There is not an "easy fix" when it comes to grief. Moreover, there is not a timeline or a date when it will be over. Some days will be easier, and those are the days you aim for. 

In our present day, many people demonize grief or act as though it is a bad thing. Others want us to "move on" or to stop having a "pity party." These comments alone can hurt and cause bitterness to rise in our hearts. Even though people will make these hurtful comments, you don't have to listen to them. The only person who can truly understand how you feel is God Himself. 

He knows your pain and the grief you are experiencing. It can be scary to face grief and pain but know that you are never alone. God is walking beside you, and He will never leave your side (Psalm 23). It is because of God that we can be thankful even during our seasons of grief. He is the One who can help us feel thankful even though our days might be filled with tears. 

During holidays, it is especially difficult to not be reminded of all of the hurt, pain, and grief. Personally, I have cried over the course of the entire day because it just doesn't feel right without my mom being present at the celebrations. If you also have found it difficult not to cry at events or during holidays, know that is okay and everyone heals at different times. I used to feel bad or over-sensitive because I would cry instead of being "strong." 

This isn't a helpful way of thinking because you are not weak for feeling grief. It is normal to grieve and to hurt after a loved one passes away because you loved them so much. Not to mention you can experience grief for other reasons also. You can also go through grief after the ending of a relationship, a terrible diagnosis, or losing your job.

Thankfulness and Grief

You might wonder how someone can be thankful when they are grieving, and it is a normal thing to question. It has taken me years to understand that you can change the way you view the situation. It is perfectly acceptable to grieve and cry, yet you can also be thankful for the person, what they taught you, and how God brought them into your life. Sometimes, I tend to focus so much on my loss that I forget what God gave me through my mom. 

My relationship with my mom wasn't perfect by any means, but she was still my mom. I learned I can be thankful during periods of deep grief by reminding myself of all the good times I had with her. You can do the same as you are going through grief. Remember all the good things, the smiles, and the laughs. Recall the way they laughed, their voice, or an interesting quirk they had about them. 

By thinking about these things, we can still get sad; however, the grief won't overtake us. We can remember our loved ones without it causing us to break down. It will take time and healing but know that every holiday won't always be this hard. Thankfulness and grief can go hand in hand, even though it is hard for many people to believe this. By going through grief, I have actually become more aware of the good things, and this, in turn, has caused me to become more thankful. 

Maybe you have noticed the same to be true about yourself. Your grief has caused you to become more thankful for the little things. This could be being more thankful for the loved ones in your life, your furry friend, or a day to celebrate with your family. Try to reflect on all the things you are grateful for during this time and see how it helps your grief. 

Being There for Someone This Season When They Are Grieving 

Sometimes grief looks like crying in your bed for hours on end, and sometimes it looks like doing your regular activities of daily living. We can never tell when a person may be going through grief by just looking at them; however, we can choose to be there for them. Being there for them can look like checking in on them, sending them a kind card, or taking them out for a coffee. There are many ways you can be there for someone during their time of grief. 

Never underestimate how much you can help someone when they are going through grief. When a person goes through grief, they tend to distance themselves from others, and it can be hard to even stay in contact with friends. Even if the person doesn't reply when you call or text, leave them a nice voicemail or a text saying you are thinking about them. These small acts of kindness can go a long way and help a person feel that their struggles are seen. 

As someone who has long-term grief, it is important to also understand that your loved one might not be the same after they have gone through grief. Grief has a way of changing people. While change is normally used as a bad thing, change can also be good. Even though I'm not the same bubbly, outgoing person I was before, I am still me. The same is true for your loved one or for yourself if you are the one going through grief. 

Grief can change you and mold you into becoming a more caring, compassionate, and empathic individual. This can help you not only when you are interacting with your loved ones, but it can also help you reach the lost world. Unbelievers often have a distorted view of Jesus, Christians, and the church. By being genuine in your interactions with them, it will show them Jesus.

This is what learning from our grief is all about. It has the power to either destroy us or to make us better people. While grief is troubling and no easy task to go through, it can help us become stronger, more understanding, and more thankful for the person we have lost as well as the people present in our lives. Thankfulness and grief can co-exist if you allow them.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jacob Postuma

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.