Blog by Geralyn Nathe-Evens
Catholic United Financial member Geralyn Nathe-Evans is a licensed nurse with a master’s degree in pastoral ministry. Through her education, career practice and suffering the death of her own husband in 2014, Nathe-Evans is a compassionate, optimistic voice finding the glory and comfort of God in our most trying moments. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
We prepare again to welcome the coming of Jesus into our hears. I, for the fifth year, will greet the Christmas season without my husband Dave. Each year I find the season to be a bit more gentle, less pain-filled. From my own experience, I have come to understand that the holidays can be especially difficult.
In this season of joy and festivity, friends and family seek ways to provide a glimpse of joy for those who are grieving. There are ways we can provide the light of God’s love and the good news of Advent and Christmas in these weeks.
Knowing that everyone grieves in their own way, I provide the following suggestions that are unlikely to offend, and may very well bring a spark of light to someone going through a dark time.
Care for yourself: honor your feelings.
Be open to sadness, tears and moments that may be difficult. Allow yourself to feel deeply and honor your love lost. Tears and sadness are not a sign of weakness. Be open to joy and happiness as well. If it feels good to laugh and feel joy, allow yourself that delight.
Care for others: honor their feelings.
Be willing to allow others their feelings. Be willing to be a “safe” person. Hold yourself back from saying, “Don’t cry”. Be willing to sit with another in silence. Offering a heartfelt, “I’m sorry.” may be the most powerful words offering care to their feelings. Affirm signs of their joy and happiness. The bereaved person may feel that they cannot both feel loss and joy. Be willing to embrace all the emotions of their journey.
Care for yourself: allow faith to lead.
Spiritual practices and beliefs many provide you support. Be aware that others may not have an understanding of what beliefs are supportive and of comfort. You may want to share with others your thoughts and practices.
Care for others: allow their faith to teach you.
Be willing to learn from others what is helpful to them. Open yourself to allow the grieving person to “teach you” what they believe and what gives them comfort. For those who have had spiritual practices, death and loss may shake their beliefs. Consider how you may be a safe person for them to seek answers. You do not need answers, nor is it your responsibility to find them. You are there to provide comfort in their journey.
Care for yourself: remember your beloved.
Find ways for you, your family and friends to include your loved ones memory in the festivities. If you have a Christmas tree, perhaps add an ornament each year to recall your beloved. Consider holding the deceased person’s place at the dinner table with an empty seat and candle. Say their name, perhaps including a prayer of thanksgiving with grace at mealtime for their life and love. Say their name, tell the stories of their life. Embrace your memories; memories made is love are never lost.
Care for others: remember their beloved.
You can support another grieving person by giving them an ornament or candle while sharing with them a memory of their beloved who died. Ask them to share a memory of a past holiday with their beloved. Say their name, honor their life. Memories are often of great joy and comfort.
Care for yourself: become involved in service.
Consider an activity or service in the community to lift your spirits and honor your beloved. It can be humbling and affirming to help others. Perhaps you can find a service or need that honors something that was important to your beloved.
Care for others: serve in their memory.
Consider buying a gift in honor of a person who has died. Select a gift that reflects the person, perhaps a game, sweater or a favorite meal, and give it someone in need this Christmas season. Send a note to the deceased family and share a memory your gift. Example, “We are remembering this Christmas how much Dave enjoyed roast beef. In his memory we have gifted a roast beef dinner to a family in need.”
For those who are grieving and missing their beloved this Christmas season, I am so very sorry for your loss. During the holidays, surround yourself with people and activities that feel good. Remember to be gentle with yourself. Grief is the result of love.