The holidays were fast approaching, and I found myself struggling with how I was going to get through them. A big part of me didn’t want to host Thanksgiving this year, but I also wanted to spend time with my side of the family. A decision of who was hosting or where my family would go, wasn’t made until four days before the day of thanks. My children were a big part of why I decided to host my family again. The boys enjoy having a house full of people, and watching their daddy fix the turkey.
The day of, as I stood in the kitchen cutting potatoes, I became overwhelmed with tears. My mom would not be there, and I said softly to myself, “Mom, I don’t think I can do this without you.” As quickly as the tears came on, they vanished. I finished cutting the potatoes and had a peace within myself. Why?
Because I knew she was with me.
Memories flooded back throughout that afternoon, and in my mind I could see her smile and hear her voice. I am quite certain she was happy to see all of us together, and that she would want us to carry on with joy in our hearts and continue making memories.
It is our family tradition, the day after Thanksgiving, to go to our favorite Christmas tree farm and cut down our tree. It was a great day! The following day we got out our Christmas decorations, and I froze. I couldn’t decorate the tree. I didn’t want to. Although I made it through Thanksgiving seemingly ok, the start of the Christmas season felt like a nose dive. I sat on the couch, and watched my children decorate the entire Christmas tree.
So, how does one find joy when their heart is broken, and they miss their loved one deeply?
First, let’s take a look at Paul…
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Philipians 1:2
The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Philipians, while he was imprisoned for spreading the news of our Lord Jesus. How can one write a letter or book about joy as they sit in a prison cell? Because the joy Paul speaks of, and the joy I know, isn’t found in things of this world, it is found through Jesus.
Seems simple enough, but grief is a strange thing. The five stages of grief* are:
- Denial– Life no longer makes sense. We only accept the thoughts and emotions we can handle at that time.
- Anger– Feel it, because it is necessary. This is the time where I became very angry at God. Anger is an emotion that I know well, and it felt good to actually feel something after coming out of denial. The thing with anger, is there is usually an underlining reason for it, and in the case of loss, it is pain. Our anger shows us just how much we loved that person.
- Bargaining– The “what if” game. I try to not let my mind go there. I know it won’t change the out come, there was nothing I could do, and I end up having sleepless nights filled with anger.
- Depression– “The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realization that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.*”
- Acceptance– This does not mean that I am ok. I don’t think I will ever be the person I was before I lost my mom. Acceptance is accepting the new reality of life without her. Finding my place in this new family dynamic, creating new memories, and continuing to live. I have more good days than bad.
These stages are not a check off list. They overlap one another, and sometimes I think I have moved on, only to be found back in anger or depression. That is what happened the day of decorating our Christmas tree.
My relationship with God has changed. I was angry towards Him for awhile. I didn’t understand why mom was diagnosed with such a rare and devastating form of cancer. I questioned His goodness, and why He chose to save others but not her. Now, those intense feelings towards Him have passed, and I know God did not give my mom cancer. We live in a fallen world, and when He created it, it was perfect and good. Cancer did not exist, but when sin entered the world, we all became broken. Could God have placed His hand on mom and saved her? Yes, but His answer was no. I don’t understand the why’s, but I am not meant to. In Isaiah 55: 8-9, it says,
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
It has been in reading this truth over and over, that has helped me find my joy this holiday season. Whatever happens (in my life), rejoice in the Lord (Philipians 3:1). Instead of finding peace and comfort through things in this world, seek Jesus, and allow the Prince of Peace to settle in your heart.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4:4-7
By His grace,
*information by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Dave Kessler at https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/