Joy and Grief this Christmas

Joy and Grief this Christmas

Holidays are usually a busy, joyous time to celebrate. Our religious and secular traditions provoke memories of years past spent with family and friends. Every year there are those who are suffering grief and loss at this time when the world expects us to be joyous. They often suffer in silence, avoid attending gatherings and struggle through the holidays.
This year in light of the pandemic, many families have suffered the loss of loved ones, or infection with COVID-19. We all are experiencing the loss of our usual lifestyle due to social distancing and our inability to travel and gather, worship and celebrate as we would in past years. The experience of some level of distress, stress, anxiety and loss is universal. We are all feeling sad, tired and uncertain. The news on vaccines is hopeful but will take a long time to impact our daily lives. So what can we do?
Perhaps this Advent season we can take time to focus on what means the most: loving ourselves, our family, neighbors and God. We can love one another even when socially distanced and masked. We can use FaceTime, Zoom, video calls, letters, cards and phone calls. Perhaps the forced changes to our “usual” traditions will create new traditions for years to come. Maybe a gathering got too large, too extravagant, or too stressful, but it was hard to take the steps to change.

Here are a few thoughts for facing grief, loss and stress during the holiday season:
  • Make a list of what is most important to you during the holidays.
  • Understand that stress, grief and loss may decrease your energy and your mood may fluctuate. Acknowledge your feelings! Allow tears but look for the joy! Tears are healing.
  • Communicate your feelings with family and friends. Realize you are not alone in how you feel.
  • Look for ways to decrease your stress: shop on-line or shop less, limit your commitments.
  • Ask for help when you need it and accept help when offered. Others close to you may want to help but may be unsure what to do. They might help clean, shop, cook or decorate for you.           
Remember, while traditions are important, caution and vigilance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will enable us to celebrate future holidays. Acknowledge that you may have to adapt traditions, make them socially distanced. If you have lost a loved one, you might buy a gift, but perhaps the gift for your departed loved one can be to a charity that was important to your loved one. Our faith will sustain us!
Matthew 11:28-29 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.


Deborah Ringen

Deborah Ringen MSN, RN-BC is a Faith Community Nurse and the Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.

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