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Grief and loss happen. They exist in our lives and we really cannot survive ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist. There are those in our lives that have made a significant difference. People we care deeply about. They are parents, grandparents, sons, daughters and friends. Their deaths leave a void in our hearts and lives that cannot be replaced or covered over.

Grief is real and impacts our lives. Jesus experienced it deeply. He wept over the death of HIs dear friend Lazarus. Entering the first holiday season, such as Christmas,  without your loved one can be a difficult time as you learn to cope with the absence. You can and should allow yourself to mourn and grieve during this season. However, in the midst of the grief there is still joy in the Lord. Here are some thoughts on walking through your first holiday after a loss.

It’s Okay to Grieve.

Tears are okay. Jesus shed them. Let them happen. Let yourself mourn the loss. Just don’t do it in isolation. Don’t cry alone. Share the time with others who have the same grief. If you have lost your spouse, take this time with your family. Cry together. If it was a dear close friend, take time with other friends from that group.

Grieving is natural and important in the healing process. But not alone. Be with people you care about and who care about you. And while this may sound awkward, don’t run from the grief, but don’t run deep into it either. In the midst of your grief, don’t let it be so consuming that you can’t feel the joy of being with family and friends.

Share stories and memories.

Tell stories. Share your favorite memories. In a way, our loved ones who are gone live on in those stories. Tell the good stories and the bad stories. Laugh and cry.  Don’t be afraid to talk about those things. Share stories about the silly things, or dumb moments, that took place over the years. Share your favorite stories about them. Share the sweet moments. Share the tough moments. You will find comfort in talking about those things.

Letting fear of the grief keep you from sharing will create a burden in your heart that will eventually overcome you. Take time to honor the memories of your loved one and begin creating new ones with your family.

Recognize there is a new norm.

Following the loss of someone you love, life simply will not return to what it was, and you really should not expect it to. That isn’t bad. It is just what it is. There is a new normal that begins in your life. It may be tempting to avoid social situations or to stay home. And it is okay to set healthy boundaries and stay home at times. It is not okay to isolate and withdraw from everything. It will only make it harder. The adjustment in your life won’t be easy, but it will be vital.

Things will be different and changes are going to occur. The days will have a broad range of emotions. Experience them, but control what you can control. You might think in advance of how you will respond to certain questions or thoughts. You might decide beforehand how long you will stay. You may politely decline to answer certain questions. You are not going to please everybody. But take time to be around people. Don’t get lost in solitude. If life becomes centered around what was lost, you will struggle to discover what can be found.

The holidays can be a painful time of the year, especially if it is the first time following the loss of a loved one. Grief is natural and you shouldn’t be afraid to feel and express it during this time. Experiencing it is a part of the healing process. Be patient with the process in yourself and with others. Maintain close support with a loving group of people in your family, your relationships and your church. Take time to celebrate memories and begin taking time to create new ones. Utilizing these strategies will help you navigate the holiday season in the midst of grief.

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About the Author: Brian Hatcher is the Discipleship Pastor at ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, TN.