Saturday, December 9, 2017

How to Get Through the Holidays After the Loss of a Loved One

The Holidays!

Getting through life is difficult enough, and for some people, getting through the holidays keeps them up at night worrying about the never-ending tasks involved with planning holiday meals, events, decorations, entertainment, and trips. And, let us not forget that there are the regular day-to-day tasks that still have to be maintained simultaneously.

Holidays are those special times of the year when we make special efforts to spend quality time with family and friends. We look forward to massive meals, desserts, gift-giving, laughter, and reminiscing that goes on when loved ones party together.

But, for some people, the holidays are a gloomy time of year. For people who are grieving over the loss of a loved one, the holidays are joyless. For some, the weariness can lead to depression and although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that suicide is low during the holiday season, when left unattended, long-term depression can lead to suicide. It is sad when that happens. Depression is no joke and so if there is a way that I can help at least one person recover from depression, I do what I can. Sometimes, all it takes to help is to reach out with words of hope, and so I hope you or someone you know finds comfort in today’s voice of hope as I share some of the ways I have learned to cope with the loss of a loved one.

The Loss of My Father

When my father passed away, I went to stay with my mother for a period of time. It was good for both us to be together. We kept each other company as we grieved the loss of one of the finest men on earth. I remember how every now and then, I would look over at my father’s comfy recliner chair and then suddenly burst into quiet tears when I didn’t see him sitting there. We would have visitors from time to time, and whenever anyone would visit, I imagine out of pure respect for my beloved father, those who knew that the recliner chair was my father’s chair would skip over it and sit beside it or somewhere else in the living room. So, my father’s chair remained unoccupied for what seemed like forever.

My father was the pillar of our family and when he left this earth, he took a piece of my heart with him.

I grieved for a considerable time, and it was especially difficult for me to get through the first major family event without his smiling face and witty humor. His presence easily filled up a room with warmth and joy. I longed to hear one of his jokes and bust out in laughter just one more time.

How Did I Cope With the Loss?

My father was all about creating memories. And, it’s a good thing, because I have a lot of good memories of him. My father was a fun character. No matter what he did, he did it with humor. Jokes, the drier the better, abounded in our household. Some days were filled with so much laughter my cheeks would ache from laughing so much. It was these memories of him that kept me motivated to be strong throughout the days following his departure.

The Good Times

I would think about the good times we shared and I would remember that my father was a good man who was strong in his faith. I knew that after leaving this earth, he was going directly to heaven. In heaven, he would no longer suffer the pain he suffered from the illness that took his life on earth. In heaven, he would receive an abundance of love. He would be welcomed into a world where everything is brighter and lovelier than anything imaginable by us on earth. I imagined my father sitting next to Jesus, telling his favorite jokes. The visual of my father and Jesus sitting in heaven laughing up a storm would tickle my heart and stir up an enormous amount of peace within me.

I coped by remembering the good times.

Music Soothes the Soul

I enjoy listening to music and the right song can elevate my mood to a level that brings me out of a slump in a very short period of time.

One song that helped me cope with the loss of my father is a song called, “You Wouldn’t Cry (Andrew’s Song) by Mandisa. According to Songfacts, Mandisa and her songwriting partner wrote this song for a grieving mother who lost her son at childbirth. The song is written from the son’s perspective – what it is like to be in heaven and how his mother should not cry because heaven is such a wonderful place.

This song helped me realize that my father is in a good place and he is doing well. This song reminded me that instead of grieving, I should be happy that he was experiencing the joy of being in heaven. I hope this song provides you with the same comfort that it has provided to me over the years.

You Wouldn't Cry (Andrew's Song)
By Mandisa, Copyright 2009 Sparrow Records. All rights reserved.

Hot Cocoa

One of the many things that I remember about my father is that he would use simple analogies to explain complex problems.

When I explain to people how I keep positive thoughts running through my head after a loss, sometimes, I use an analogy related to the idea of drinking a cup of hot cocoa. With this analogy, I don’t mean to make light of the loss of life and so I apologize, in advance, if I offend anyone.

I like hot cocoa. But, I am also lactose intolerant. In order to enjoy the hot cocoa, I have to take lactose enzyme tablets. Once I drink the cocoa, though the cocoa is gone, I am full and satisfied.

A cup of hot cocoa does not last forever. And, people do not live forever. Just as I enjoyed my cup of hot cocoa and the cup is empty now, so must I enjoy my loved ones while they are here with me because tomorrow they may be gone. And, just as I remember how delicious my cup of hot cocoa was, I remember how wonderful my loved ones were and I am happy I had the pleasure of knowing them.

Recovering From Loss

Just as I have to take lactose enzymes to drink a cup of hot cocoa, I use life resources to help me cope with the loss of loved ones. I listen to positive, uplifting music and audiobooks, I read books, I dance, I sing, and I spend time with other people because isolation is the one thing that keeps me from recovering from loss.

I read a lot, and whenever I want to discover information about something, I find a book, written by experts on the subject of interest. When I needed additional help in recovering from the loss of my father, I started reading books about the grief process and how to get back to feeling normal.

A friend recommended a book titled, “Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life & Living,” by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross and David Kessler. The writers do an excellent job of explaining what love is and isn’t. The book gives examples of how we can learn to love family and friends unconditionally. There is much satisfaction in loving unconditionally, so that when our loved ones have passed away, we know we gave them all the love we had, leaving us fulfilled and with less grief upon their passing.

Here is an excerpt from the Amazon description page.

"Each one of us at some point asks this question. The tragedy is not that life is short but that we often see only in hindsight what really matters.

In this, her first book on life and living, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross joins with David Kessler to guide us through the practical and spiritual lessons we need to learn so that we can live life to its fullest in every moment. Many years of working with the dying have shown the authors that certain lessons come up over and over again. Some of these lessons are enormously difficult to master, but even the attempts to understand them can be deeply rewarding. Here, in fourteen accessible chapters, from the Lesson of Love to the Lesson of Happiness, the authors reveal the truth about our fears, our hopes, our relationships, and, above all, about the grandness of who we really are."

I wholeheartedly recommend that you read this book because I believe you will find relevant answers and insight into the process of recovering from loss.

Sometimes You Will Struggle

Sometimes you will struggle and not even want to get out of bed. I get it. I certainly had many of those days. Fortunately, I learned that no matter how down and out I felt, I needed to gather up whatever energy I could find to help me get up and do something.

Sometimes you will not feel like singing. Sing anyway. Singing will occupy your mind. Singing will take your focus off of your grief, even if it is just for a short while.

Sometimes you will not feel like dancing. Dance anyway. Just like with singing, you will be less focused on the grief. Plus dancing may increase your serotonin levels (a chemical in the body that makes you happy).

Socialize! Being around other people provides similar benefits as singing and dancing. Grief drains your emotional energy, and when you surround yourself with caring people, you are bound to receive the hugs you need to help lift your emotional stamina.

Getting through the holidays after the loss of a loved one requires strength. It takes a desire, commitment, and oftentimes encouragement from others to help you get back on your feet again.

Being sad is part of the grieving process. Working toward recovering is also part of the grieving process. No matter how vulnerable you feel, being with others during the holidays is an excellent start toward your path of recovery.

Scripture of Hope

"If a man dies, shall he live again? This thought gives me hope, so that in all my anguish I eagerly await sweet death!" --Job 14:14 Living Bible

And so, I leave you with this final note of hope.

Celebrate the holidays in honor of your loved ones. Remember the good times that you had with them. Share the love they gave you with others so that the legacy of your loved ones linger on through you. Your loved ones would not want you to be sad, especially now. Instead, they would want you to be happy, knowing that they are living forever in a place where life is extraordinarily blissful.

I pray that you will be full of hope in the eternal life that we are promised after our time on earth has expired. I pray that you know that through the sacrifices of our Savior Jesus Christ, you have a standing invitation to enter into the gates of heaven. I pray that you know your faith-filled loved ones, upon entering into the gates of heaven are guaranteed to live a gloriously majestic life in our Lord’s world.

I pray that you have a wonderfully blessed and Merry Christmas!

Links in this blog:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Holiday Suicides: Fact or Myth? December 31, 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visited Website 12/12/17.

Songfacts: Visited website 12/12/2017.

Serotonin: Article by James McIntosh, April 29, 2016. Serotonin: Facts, What Does Serotonin Do?, Medical News Today. Visited website 12/12/2017:

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