Grieve well and thrive now and always

 

December 17, 2021

Seth Wynands is pastor of Bethesda Lutheran Church in Carlton. He lives in Carlton with his wife, Andrea, who also likes Christmas, and their cat (who does not).

I used to love Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I still love Christmas, but bear with me for a minute.

What I have always loved about Christmas was the warmth of the season. I love that people gather with family and friends, and I love the undercurrent of joy that runs underneath all of it.

Then, in the year 2015, a whole lot changed for me. I moved away from my friends and my home. When I got to my new home, I struggled to find a job. Once I did, I didn't feel like I fit. A short time later, my grandmother died, and I was unable to travel to the funeral.

By the time December rolled around, I was not exactly feeling "merry and bright."

I wanted to feel joyful, but that year, even faking "Christmas cheer" seemed impossible. At times, I was sad or even angry for seemingly no reason.

What I did not realize at the time was that I was grieving.

I was grieving the loss of the home and the life I had known. I was grieving the loss of some of the hopes and expectations I had built up for myself in my new job. And, of course, I was grieving the loss of my grandmother. Considering all of this, it is not too surprising that I wasn't quite ready to rock around the Christmas tree.

This year has also been a difficult year for so many of us. For some, this will be the first Christmas without the presence of a loved one, and for others, the first Christmas in a new stage of life. For others still, the season serves as a reminder of what, or who, they lost years ago.

Even in all of its warmth and joy, this season has a way of surfacing our grief, and we need to find ways to grieve well.

For quite a while during that December of 2015, I was not grieving very well. I bottled up my feelings and turned away from others.

Thankfully, though, by the grace of God through the help of good friends, I found ways to grieve well. I began writing in a journal. I talked with family members to remember my grandmother, and I allowed myself to cry. Even when I did not feel like it, I spent some time alone (sometimes praying, sometimes not) and some time with others.

Doing these things helped me to grieve well. It did not fix everything, but I was able to find hope once again.

Here's the bottom line: Far more than being a time of forced cheerfulness, Christmas is, at its heart, a season of hope. We have hope because we have one another, and we have hope because God is always with us, even when the worst happens. And hope perseveres, even and especially in grief.

My prayer for you is that, whatever you might be grieving this Christmas, you might find ways to grieve well.

Perhaps it is by writing in a journal or doing something creative. Perhaps it is by talking with a trusted friend or family member. I have often found people to be far more receptive than I think they will be.

Perhaps it is by attending a "Blue Christmas" or "Longest Night" service with a local church. The Neighborhood Church of Cloquet hosts a candle-lighting service over Zoom on Dec. 21. Zion Lutheran Church of Cloquet offers a "Longest Night" service (also on Dec. 21). Both are designed specifically to help us in our grief.

Oh, and yes, I do love Christmas again. It offers us hope. Even in all of 2021's challenges, I have found hope once again this year.

May God's peace be with you this season, and Merry Christmas.

 
 

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