Monday 10 December 2018

Your First Christmas After the Death of a Loved One

Blue Christmas

It was early November that Mom took her last breath. All to quickly the holiday season crept through the front door that year. Though still feeling the numbness of her absence we began to pick up speed through all our usual festivities. School concerts, church gatherings, family, and more family began to add weight to our already heavy hearts. Christmas night was my breaking point. Walking through the front door my legs gave way below my body and I collapsed on the couch with a weariness that penetrated the depths of my soul. My stomach still queasy from the rich feast I had stuffed down (more food than I had eaten in months), my chest heavy with agonizing grief. It was just.too.much. 

The first Christmas without our loved one is perhaps the most agonizing time of the year. A season usually filled with laughter, nearness of family, and joy loses its sparkle under the weight of grief. If I could go back in time I would give myself four pieces of advice, but since time travel is impossible I will share them with you instead in hopes of slightly easing the burden of the grief in your holiday season.

1. Allow yourself time to be sad.

Christmas is truly a season of joy as we remember the birth of our Redeemer, it is certainly a time to pause and celebrate! This year, let your gift to yourself be a gift of grace when the joy doesn't come as easily. Be patient, allowing yourself to be sad. Joy will return in small moments though maybe not through this holiday season, but one day. This also goes for the coming years. Grief is a rather odd emotion sneaking up when you least expect it. Be purposeful in taking moments to yourself or with someone you love to be sad and remember the person who has passed. One day you will smile a genuine smile again. One day you will laugh again. One day you will make it through Christmas and enjoy it once more, but until then be gracious with your heart.

2. Expect fatigue

My body was beyond exhausted by the time we made it to Christmas. We had gone from death to funeral to Christmas and both my physical and mental health were deplete. Christmas day I found a quiet space at my grandparent's home, where we were visiting, and excused myself to rest for 30 minutes. Go easy on yourself this year. Slow down the pace and don’t be afraid to say “no” to events and invites. You will be tired as you work to process your emotions and down time will be essential. Give yourself scheduled breaks to be able to rest even if you don’t sleep.

3. Find a way to remember your loved one

On the top of our tree we place an angel that my mom had given to me just before she got sick. Every year our angel finds her place atop our tree and everyone in our home knows the angel is our precious reminder of Mom/ Grammy. You could put out a photo or ornament, light a candle, recite their favourite Bible passage, play their favourite song, or leave an extra place setting at your table. Whatever it is, do something to remember them and remind you of the cherished memories you still carry even though they are gone. It is in those sweet memories that you will find the healing balm for your wounded heart.

4. Know that how you feel won’t last forever

Christmas is no longer what it once was. Every now and then I still find myself grieving over what use to be, but we have found a new normal. This is true whenever there are monumental changes in our lives be it a death, a move, divorce, a new baby, or anything that brings about newness good or bad. Our traditions have changed a little to adapt. Our new traditions are growing sweeter again as the holidays no longer sting like they once did. It is hard my sweet reader but the crushing pangs of grief will lift, don’t take my word for it, here’s what God has to say to you:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… (Ecclesiastes  3:1,4)

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Take heart. Know that God is near you, comforting you, and strengthening you as you rest.  


photo credits: Annie Spratt @ Unsplash

Monday 3 December 2018

2 Truths to Hang Tightly to When Riding an Emotional Rollercoaster

2 things our feelings cannot do

Emotions are odd things. They can swell up unexpectedly whether the moment calls for them or not, or they can be oddly absent when we are expected to have a response. Often we can even find ourselves depending on our emotions to be the driving force behind decision making. 

Emotions are subjective, not objective. They are dependant on the person experiencing them, and the entirety of who they are and where they’ve been is what brings about an emotional response. Emotions are not to be shrugged off but dealt with, however, there are two objective truths as Christians we must cling tightly to as we wade through the sea of emotions in our lives.

1. Our emotions cannot separate us from God.

There is a new kind of legalism taking over the church. This legalism implies that we must be optimistic at all times or else our faith is in jeopardy. We smile big to prove we possess Abraham like faith never letting on what’s brewing below the surface for fear others may perceive in us a weakness of faith. 

After Jesus was resurrected, but prior to his ascension he made several appearances. One, in particular, is my favourite. Two men are walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus when Jesus shows up and starts walking alongside them. God makes the two men blind in their understanding of who Jesus is and they all begin to talk.

And he (Jesus) said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, Iooking sad. (Luke 24:17, parentheses mine, emphasis mine)

They proceed to tell Jesus in all their sadness what they had just witnessed during his crucifixion in Jerusalem. His death still fresh and lingering in their thoughts brought them to a devastating conclusion:

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” (Luke 24:21)

They “had hoped” past tense. Their hope was gone and they were sad, and yet walking alongside them was Jesus. In all their despair, the one who gives comfort was there all along! He walked with them talking as he went. At their home they invited Jesus in where he broke bread and blessed it at which point God revealed for the first time who their company really was. 

When we are blue, bitter, discouraged, frustrated we need to remember our emotions cannot separate us from God. In fact, as the two men found out, in their sadness and longing for a Redeemer he was closer than they recognized. What is important to note is that it is sin that causes separation from God not emotions, though emotions can lead us to sin if not kept in check. 

The two men experienced one last emotion that came with a very physical response.

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 emphasis mine)

God’s word, like Jesus’ presence to the men, is where we find the balm for our aching souls. We pour out our hearts like the Psalms of lament and allow God to comfort, redeem, correct our thinking when we’ve strayed, and walk beside us in all our emotions knowing that He already knows how we feel. In our honesty and surrender He can move in to begin to restore. 

2. Our emotions cannot not bind us to God.

Many of us have felt the euphoric rush of a good worship song, and no doubt the Holy Spirit can speak to us as we offer up our songs of praise and worship to God! It is an extraordinary feeling to be surrounded by God's presence! But long after the band's last song, when we go home to our ordinary lives, our prayers sometimes seem to fall flat. Sometimes we even experience extended seasons where the fullness of God’s presence seems absent in our lives. In these seasons we need to remember it is not our emotions that bond us to God, but the redeeming blood of our Saviour that justifies our eternal bond. 

When Jesus casts out Legion (found in Matthew 8 and Mark 5) even the demons had an emotional response to his presence.

Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. (Mark 5:6-10 emphasis mine)

These demons very clearly had an emotional response. We know that demons believe in God and shudder (James 2:19). They can have wildly emotional responses around God yet we know they are not saved. Because of this we can know that whether it was the shudder at the name of God or tears shed while speaking to him in prayer it is still not an indication that we are saved and bonded to Christ. We do not need to have an emotional response each and every time as much as we long to sense God's presence.

When we hang onto our moments of tearful euphoria as our hope for salvation, we ignore God’s other gift of logic and our minds. Though logic does not carry the warmth of an emotional experience, it is our anchor in seasons of drought. We can know that God is real because his word tells us so. We can know we are saved because his word also tells us without error that those who confess that Jesus is Lord, that he died for our sins, and who repent are adopted sons and daughters in God’s family. God is still present and working in our lives even we don't feel it. 

When our prayer life feels stagnant and dull we can certainly ask God’s Spirit to refresh our prayer lives. However, should we find ourselves in a quiet season of life, we can know in our mind, and hold tight to our faith that God is still there, and our salvation still stands, emotions notwithstanding. 

So take a deep breath. Thank God for giving us emotions as a way to express ourselves, but don’t cling so tightly to how you feel allowing your emotions to be your driving force. Know that your emotions cannot keep you from nor bind you to God. They will ebb and flow like they always do. Instead, hold fast to the word of God that provides us comfort and correction to soothe our aches and promises to anchor our thoughts knowing he is still walking alongside us. 


photo credit: Nick Demou @