What do you give a person who is having a very difficult times during the holidays?
Several months ago, we pondered that question at our seniors Bible study. I deeply enjoy this group because we are able to engage in wonderful, convoluted discussions. No topic is out of bounds.
We were discussing the difficulty of holiday grief. The death of a loved one is always challenging, but it seems to be more acute during holidays. When those around you are joyous, it is difficult to grieve.
The problem is complex. Those who are grieving need to be around people who support them. However, those in their support system are often torn between the joy of the holiday and the need to provide support.
Those in grief feel like they are ruining the celebration of others. Those who are celebrating feel insensitive to those in mourning.
At that Bible study, that was the convoluted conversation we were pondering.
We have several members who lost loved ones during a Christmas season. One family had multiple deaths over the years, all during the Christmas holidays.
One of our members has a bereavement ministry. For the sake of this article, I will call her Brenda. Brenda writes personal letters to parents who suffer the death of a young child. She shares with them her story of recovery. More importantly, she has a gift for offering hope to those who are experiencing complex grief.
In that Bible Study, a very quiet member – let’s call her Sue – told us that she had been the recipient of one of Brenda’s letters. She experienced the loss of a grandchild on Christmas Day. It was the second Christmas holiday death in two years.
She felt it would be impossible for her to go on. At that very moment, Brenda’s letter arrived. Sue was amazed at Brenda’s ability to describe the indescribable emotions Sue was experiencing.
Brenda was a few decades ahead of Sue in her recovery journey. Brenda’s letter described her very difficult journey that was ahead for Sue. But it was a journey. Life does not stop. It moves through new levels of pain and new levels of wholeness.
Sue is now a decade beyond those traumatic deaths. Last summer, when she was preparing for a hurricane evacuation, she took a minute to evaluate her possessions.
She could easily replace furniture and clothes. It was clear that she needed to take important, irreplaceable items. Sue grabbed a prepared folder of vital papers from her safe. Then she took Brenda’s bereavement letters. She could not imagine leaving them behind.
What do you give a person who is having a very difficult time during the holidays? Brenda gave Sue hope.
The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.