This time of year gets hard for me. For the past five years, when my birthday rolls around in mid-November, I can begin to feel the shift. I described it a few weeks ago to my husband as this- “There’s just this deep ache within my soul that feels heavy. I’m not depressed. I’m not anxious. Yet, I feel as if there is something sitting on my chest and it’s not going away.”
I’ve learned that this deep ache is GRIEF. With the holiday season there comes a longing. . .a longing for the way things used to be. A longing for what I had hoped always would be.
When Mama left this earth nearly five years ago, so many things in my world were rocked, shaken, and left upside-down. I’ve spent the last five years trying to stabilize and re-order my world, my brokenness, and my hurting heart.
Grief is definitely a journey. For me, it turns mountainous with holidays and special occasions. My birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. . . these few months were always filled with wonderful memories that involved time with my mom and our family. Five years later, these holidays still bring the longing for the love, laughter, and memories that were a part of me for 34 years.
Grief during the holidays is a normal thing, friends. I think that regardless of how many years it’s been since the passing of a loved one, you still wish that empty chair was filled. You still reflect and remember the joys or even sadness that your loved one brought into the room. You still find it hard to breathe at times when that lump suddenly appears in your throat as you have a flashback of the way “things used to be.”
For the first few years after Mom died, I dreaded the holiday season. The grief scared me. I wasn’t sure how to handle all of the crazy thoughts, deep soul ache, and lack of enthusiasm for celebrations. I didn’t like the woman I became as I was climbing the mountain of grief. The journey was so very hard! I didn’t feel normal. . . like the real me.
In those initial years of grief, I felt as though I was peering into the windows of holiday celebrations rather than experiencing the celebrations for myself. The numbness, sadness, and heaviness were very oppressive. Holidays were difficult for me because I was wrapped up in my own past memories while trying to create new ones for myself and my own family. It’s a strange place to be. No fun at all.
While I still have the grief ache this season, I am now learning to lean into the heaviness rather than try to avoid it or feel frightened. I don’t feel as though I want to run and hide in the closet this year until the holidays pass. Rather, I am embracing the soul longings that remind me why Christmas exists. Embracing the brokenness that points to the One who came to heal all my brokenness and yours. Embracing the ache that reminds me of my need for a Savior.
During the Christmas season I love to reflect on these Scripture passages–
John 1:14,16– “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . .And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Matthew 1:21– “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Just a few verses later, Matthew says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
In these past five years of struggle, I have come to truly understand and cherish the joy that only JESUS brings through His grace, truth, glory, and with-ness. He has provided grace for each struggle in my grief. His Spirit has led me to deep truths about myself and my need for Jesus. Truths of His extravagant love and constant presence in my life. I’ve watched His glory clearly on display in various ways. He has never abandoned me. . . but has surrounded me with His sweet presence in the midst of very dark and difficult days. From His fullness, I have received grace upon grace. Oh, such beautiful whispers of grace.
I’ve come to believe that Jesus most clearly displays His light in my darkest of moments. He meets me during the heavy grief days and brings light into my darkness. John 1:4-5 says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (NLT)
Last week at church, we sang one of my favorite songs- “This We Know.” As I worshipped with tears flowing down my face and hands lifted in praise to my Savior, I was reminded once again of these great truths …
Of one thing I am sure this holiday season. . . I know that death and grief will not always color my life. Brokenness and sorrow will not exist forever. The greatest celebrations are yet to come.
I KNOW that we will see the enemy run! We will SEE the victory come! So right now, I will HOLD on to every promise Jesus ever made because He is unfailing!
Right now in your life, you may feel overcome with grief and sorrow. I am praying that this holiday season you will experience His joy in the heaviness. He is always faithful, friend. He will always do what He says He’ll do. He will always be who He says He is. Keep walking with Him. His love never fails. NEVER!
You and I must choose to trust Him. We must hold on to His promises with all we have within us. We must also remember that He is holding onto us as well. . . He loves us way too much to let us go. Find rest in that amazing truth today.
Give Him room in your heart this holiday season to be your joy in the heaviness. He never disappoints.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18 NLT