Grieving Through the Holidays

This time of year, from the end of October through the beginning of January provides us with so many opportunities for joy and family time as well as a focus on giving and receiving. Typically, this is a time of year that we find peace in seeing so much good among people. However, this can also be a time of sadness, despair and loneliness, especially if a loved one has died and thus you can’t help but feel their absence even stronger during this time that is so focused on family and love.

For some there is a desire to withdraw; a desire to skip over this time of year as though it is not happening because it is so hard to imagine going through this time without your loved one physically by your side.  Each of these celebrations from Halloween to the Baptism of our Lord can be used to aid in your mourning.  Perhaps you can use the graces God offers in these holidays to help you actively remember and mourn your loved one, in private or in the company of friends and family.  Here are some ideas that might help you through each of these celebrations.

Halloween

Consider what masks have you been wearing since the death of your loved one? If you took that mask off what would really show? It’s okay to let the real you show. God knows the real you and loves every bit of it. And some people will know better how to care for you if they know how you really are. How are people opening their door to you? How are you opening your door to others?

All Saints and All Souls

With these celebrations we are reminded that we are not alone, and we never completely lose connection with those who have died.  We can remember all the good in a person’s life.  We can also remember their weaknesses and that they may still need our prayers.  Additionally, we know that those who have died when in the presence of God can and do intercede prayerfully for us.  Those in purgatory can do nothing for themselves.  They need our prayers. Pray for your loved one and ask them to pray for you.  You know their strengths and their weaknesses.  Ask that their strengths help you be healed where you need it and that they be healed where they need it.

Thanksgiving

Make a Blessings Inventory.  List everything you can think of that you are thankful for. Eucharist comes from the Greek word, Eucharistia, which means thanksgiving.  Receive the Eucharist as often as possible during this holiday.  Go to mass while you are off from work.  When you receive the Eucharist at the table of the Lord and when you are at your Thanksgiving table give thanks for the life and love of your loved one as well as for the friends and family who are still with you.

The Feast of Christ the King

Jesus Christ is the King of everything on Earth and in Heaven.  He is a benevolent King.  Invite Him to rule over your life.  Ask in the Name of Jesus Christ for whatever you long for.  Ask Jesus to be the King of your grief.  Write a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ asking him to take away the negative and pain that rules your life right now.  Ask Jesus to be the King of your mind, body, and soul. Invite the King into your grief. Remember, since Jesus is the Kind of Heaven and Earth you and your deceased loved one are still in the same kingdom.

Advent

This is a time of anticipation and expectation. As a Church we anticipate the coming of Jesus in three ways, 1) the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, God incarnate; 2) Jesus coming into your heart and life; and 3) the Second Coming, Parousia, the Final coming of Jesus.  Use this time to 1) remember how your loved one first came into your life, remember their birth stories. 2) How did and does your loved one come into your heart and life while living and now? And 3) faithfully know that as you grow in your relationship with God you are journeying towards the possibility of seeing your loved one again.

Immaculate Conception

Mary was saved by the Grace of God at the moment of her conception.  Remember the Grace of God in the life of your loved one who has died.  When are some times you can look back and see the Grace of God working in your loved one’s life and very possibly really saving them? What do you see the Grace of God doing for your loved one now?  What was the sin in their life that God’s Grace is healing and making new now?

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe loved and cared for St Juan Diego and the people of Mexico.  She desired their healing.  Her maternal care keeps us close to her.  Through Our Lady people returned to loving Jesus and His Church.  How did your loved one care for people? What healing would you ask Our Lady to help you with now? What kind of care did you receive from your loved one?  What kind of care did you give your loved one? How did you see your loved one return to Jesus?  How is your grieving helping you return to Jesus and His Church?

Christmas

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, Family, and Giving and Receiving of gifts.  We appreciate the presents and love the presence of our loved ones and of God.  Recall how your loved one was and is a gift to you.  Focus on the joy of the family you still have.  Find the joy in the ways God made himself present in the life of your loved one and continues to do so as you mourn their loss.

Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Family commemorates their life together and the celebration focuses on religious family life. How have you and can you commemorate the life of your deceased loved one in your family? Reflect on what “family” means to you.  Your situation has been changed by the death of your loved one, and it will never be exactly the same, but it is helpful to acknowledge the family you still have.  How can you do this? How will you relate with your family members in this new situation? Share the “Holyness” of your family.

New Year

This is a time of new expectations, new hope, new plans, new goals. This is a time of continued expectations for good things to come.  What are some goals you would like to set for yourself for this year? What would you like to plan to do to honor and remember your loved one who died? Did you already have plans for this year? Will you follow through with that plan? Who are the people in your life you want to spend more time with this year?

Mary Mother of God

Mother of God is an honorable title given to Mary to express the reality of her role as the literal Mother of Jesus and thus the Mother of God.  God humbled himself and honored humanity in an incredible way by submitting to be a child to a human mother.  Looking back on the life of your loved one, what honorable “titles” would you give them?  What could you call them that would describe what they were and are to you? How did they humble themselves for you or for others, thus being seen as wonderful?

Epiphany

What have you discovered about you, your loved one, others, and life that has been helpful and enlightening, strengthening?  What have you discovered and what do you hope to discover on your journey?  How can you use this event in your life as a sign that will bring you to Jesus?

Baptism of Jesus

Trust that you are God’s child with whom He is well pleased.  Let this be so and follow Him as you embark on this new life. What do you want to ask Jesus to cleanse you of?  What are the gifts that God has given you as His beloved child?  How do you intend to accept God being pleased with you and live the commitment of your baptism? How did your loved one live their being a child of God? How was God pleased with your loved one? How are you pleased with your loved one?

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13-14, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”  This holiday season invite your family and friends to share your trouble or consider how you can share in someone else’s trouble whom you know is grieving this season.  It is my prayer that through the Grace of God, and with an open grieving perspective of the holidays you may yield to the Graces of the celebrations to help you mourn your loved one in private and with your closest family and friends. 

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