The holidays are a season of joy, love, laughter, fun, parties, gifts and gatherings of friends and family. It’s the end of the year and we eagerly anticipate a new one just around the corner.
But sometimes, there’s an intruder into the midst of the merriment. It’s called grief.
Our community has very recently experienced the loss of a child in a tragic accident – at the end of one of the most joyful events of the year, our Christmas parade. Judging by personal conversations, social media posts and various news stories, it seems we all are affected by 5-year-old Ameer Frazier’s death.
We grieve together with the family, though we might not know any of his relatives personally. But we are compelled to reach out somehow, to hug and comfort those suffering the worst pain.
How does one find joy in the season after such a profound loss?
I asked one of our contributors, Rev. Dr. Jon Black, for his thoughts. Rev. Black officiated at the vigil and funeral services for Ameer the week after he died.
Here are his words:
“When ministering to people in grief, pastors are trained to:
1. Focus on the ministry of presence,
2. Be extremely Rogerian (client directed),
3. Provide a non-anxious presence,
4. Provide a nonjudgmental presence, and
5. Avoid clichés and easy answers.
“I must admit that these tools have served me well. If I were to lift one above the other, it would be the ministry of presence. People experiencing a loss during the holidays need to know that someone is willing to walk with them through this difficult season of life.”
He then relayed a personal experience in which friends were present for him during a difficult loss and ensuing grief. He said the people who helped him most were those who were simply there, letting him feel his emotions without judgment.
I, too, know the pain of grief during the holiday season. In early December of three separate years, four years apart, I lost my brother, then my mother, then my father.
During those times and shortly after, I found myself in various degrees of compelling sadness. Christmas had always been my favorite season, but I didn’t feel like shopping, nor stringing up the hundreds of lights waiting in a closet. Celebrating was the furthest thing from my mind.
But, the good news is that there were just as many bursts of excitement, a few laughs, and good conversations with close friends and family members. It certainly helped to talk about my feelings. The pain didn’t go away, but it got a little softer with each day.
So how do we find joy when sad things happen in our world?
Consider these ideas, learned or heard or experienced, and try to find someone to join you:
Do something good for someone else. Give a toy or books or a jacket for someone in need. Bake a pie for someone who lives alone. Spend time with a senior who has no family nearby.
Go to a musical event, like a school chorus’s annual Christmas concert, or a church choir’s cantata. Get out in nature, even when it’s cold. Behold a beautiful sunrise or sunset and just be in that moment of colorful wonder. Take a hike. Ride a bike.
Be grateful for the blessing of having had that person in your life.
If you aren’t experiencing grief this holiday, consider yourself lucky or blessed – however you look at it. And take the time to try to comfort someone who is grieving. As Rev. Jon said, offer your very presence. Give hope.
Wishing you a joyful Christmas.