The coronavirus pandemic makes 2020’s holiday season fraught with uncertainty. If you’re also suffering the loss of a loved one, this time of year is downright painful.
As I prepare to celebrate Halloween, one of our family’s favorite holidays, and begin penciling out our Thanksgiving feast, I feel pangs of grief for the loss of those who won’t join our celebrations.
Grief can hit hardest at ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ when we are expected to be ever joyful. For the sandwich generation – those of us caring for children and aging parents at the same time – the extra burdens of parties, preparations, gift-giving, and travel can overwhelm us. If you’re grieving, the holidays seem insurmountable.
It’s important for Catholic families to turn to God at times of grief and pain. “The beauty of our Catholic faith is that we possess the understanding of the theology and gift of redemptive suffering,” notes writer Jeanie Ewing in a December 2018 story from Today’s Catholic.
“Even more, we know that death is not the punctuation at the end of our lives. Rather, we carry the hope that resurrection awaits each of us, especially those who are faithful to God and try their best to live virtuous lives.”
I’ve found it healing to discuss memories of my late father at family gatherings. Reminiscing about the time he stole my son’s plate of holiday fudge seems to bring him to life again. Every time I make fudge I smile at that memory.
Take the time to be sad, angry, quiet, or talkative about the lost loved one, recommends Elena LaVictoire at CatholicMom.com. “I really think we ‘do’ grief badly in this country,” LaVictoire writes. “It’s almost as if the day after the funeral, life should be back to normal, but for someone who has lost a dear friend or a loved one, that ‘normal’ life is over and it takes time to find out what the new normal is.
“The same will be true for families after a divorce, or a serious illness, or for family with loved ones not able to be with them for the holidays.”
Lighting a candle at home or in church and saying a prayer memorializes a loved one. Talking to God about our grief is not only comforting but provides us the opportunity to grow closer to Him in prayer.
Catholic Health Services offers these useful suggestions for those grieving at the holidays.
- Do be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.
- Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul and your loss.
- Do allow time for feelings.
- Don’t keep feelings bottled up. If you have 500 tears to cry don’t stop at 250.
- Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain times in our lives.
- Don’t ask if you can help or should help a friend in grief. Just help. Find ways; invite them to group events or just out for coffee.
- Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers.
Catholic Hospice care extends to the family of the patient with bereavement and counseling services. Call 800-533-3933 to request information or learn more at catholichospice.org