I feel like I’m supposed to be writing something positive for the holidays, & I’m sure I will have put a positive spin on things by the end of this post, but I think this topic is important to talk about.
Unfortunately, losing someone or feeling grief during the holidays seems to be a common experience but for some reason, I never thought it would be something I would experience again for a while. But on December 11th, when I found out that a member of our family was suddenly gone, it felt… not real. I’ve lost a little more than a handful of close family members, but last Sunday was the first time I didn’t immediately react negatively to the news.
I probably had every right to; my cousin was struck by a car on the way home from walking his dog & his life was taken away instantly due to another person’s recklessness. His wife & daughters left without their husband & father; & because he was well known & well loved in a few communities, the loss is more significant.
Since the 11th I’ve gone from disbelief to peace, to irritation, to sadness, back to peace… & it took some time for me to finally shed tears because this past Sunday, it seemed to finally become real for me. Everyone processes death differently & I’ve decided to give myself grace in how I handle this one, especially since the priority for me right now is doing what I can to support his immediate family.
What I can attribute to the peace I am able to return to is the scripture I read earlier that day, Psalms 131:1a-2b, which says “Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed & quieted my soul…”
It was as if God had prepared me for what I was going to find out later that night cause when my mom asked why this happened, I knew immediately that I didn’t need to know & that my cousin was in a better place. Obviously, something like this can work well for those who believe or are interested in scripture, but for those who don’t & aren’t this isn’t very helpful. Since You’re Not Finished isn’t just for Christians, & the experiences I have are bigger than me, I want to share a few helpful & practical ways you all can cope with grief during the holidays:
- Take as much time as you need.
- I’ve had the unfortunate experience of feeling like I need to move on quickly from a loss due to work demands & other life circumstances as well as watching my family member be bombarded with outside requests from others who don’t have the decency to give her the time, space, & privacy that she needs. While people may mean well, it’s important to establish clear boundaries of what is & isn’t acceptable support or communication for the time being without concerning yourself too much about how other people will feel about it. That doesn’t mean being a jerk, of course, it means giving people the opportunity to love you well & in the capacity you need as you grieve.
- Stay healthy.
- This is admittedly a hypocritical tip coming from me because there have been a couple of days since the 11th that I have eaten my feelings. I’ve always been an emotional eater, so this habit was easy to turn to for me. Still, I want to encourage you that getting a good night’s sleep, deciding to spend less time on social media, choosing who & what to interact with, & eating well are the best ways to continue having a good quality of life while dealing with grief. This includes not running from your feelings & adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms that delay healing. Keep in mind that there is grace for mistakes & times when this is difficult, just don’t stay in an unhealthy place. I can say honestly that my best days since my cousin’s death are the ones in which I’ve prioritized my personal well-being.
- Stay in community.
- You need a core group of people to have around you (when you have the capacity for company). Isolation feeds bad thoughts, feelings, & habits, which fuels sickness & diminishes your quality of life. People, the right people or the safest people, need to be able to reach you & as I stated in the first point, love you well & in the capacity you need as you grieve.
- Reflect on positive moments.
- Remembering your friend or loved one by their character & the good times you had with them, & doing so consistently as time passes, can ease the pain you feel. Recalling these memories with others who knew & loved them can provide you with the support you all need when the wave of grief is most difficult to get through.
- Ask for what you need.
- Today I was supposed to go to the viewing as well as the funeral for my friend’s grandmother but when I woke up this morning, I decided to go to neither. I realized how incredibly triggering attending those events would be for me, & since a triggered Brittany benefits no one I communicated that I needed space to myself for today. &, to my surprise (although I shouldn’t have been), people were understanding. Keep in mind that some have their own hang-ups, so not everyone will be. Fortunately for you, that isn’t something you will need to take responsibility for.
I realize that I’m writing this after only 9 days of losing a loved one, but after having experienced so much loss in life (not just due to death) I just feel the need to be encouraging to someone who may need it because life is too short to be withholding love & encouragement from anyone, regardless… or maybe even especially because of these circumstances.
Death is ugly, but I’m finding that the more I experience it the more meaningful life becomes. It’s a reminder to not take things for granted, to forgive that person (whether I stay connected to them or not), to love & feel deeply, & to quit letting fear derail me from doing the things I’m called to do in life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out here looking forward to death or losing anyone, I just know it’s unavoidable, so… it seems that I might as well live fully, wisely, & freely while I can.
For those who believe or have an interest in the Christian faith, here is an encouraging word from my cousin that passed away:
He’s good. & “Finish Well” definitely has a deeper meaning for me now.
Thank you, Nick.
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