Mournful Holidays

written by Rev. Peter Panagore, UCC pastor, author, and Minister of Daily Devotions radio ministry, Portland, ME


5 Tools to Use for living with Mournful Holidays

Does heartache haunt holiday? Are you mourning the one, or the ones, who you love or loved the most? Does your heart ache? Do you grieve? Are you asking yourself, "How will I handle the holidays with my heavy heart?"

Love's opposite is grief; they exist in equal measure inside a broken human heart, and that's what makes the holidays so hard for so many. Love equals grief and grief equals love. It is a sorrowful equation.

Here are four tools that my help you cope during the holidays:

1. Let yourself mourn. Let yourself miss the one you miss. All of your love has been transformed into grief. You cannot help that. Let it be so. Feel all of it. Try not to pretend that it is not there. It's okay to be real; it's okay to be yourself; it's okay to feel your feelings. Let yourself cry wherever and whenever the urge overcomes you. Give yourself this permission. Cry quietly, or wail, or sob, or pound your pillow. The tears will come when they will and where they will. Let them out and you will not drown in sorrow.

2. Let the children grieve. Let the children feel their feelings. It is harder for them than it is for you. A grieving child will take their lead from you. Be honest with your feelings and your children be honest with theirs. Hug them, hold them, cry with them, give them chances to have fun, to have respite, and let the children play, and grieve in their own way.

3. Friends and family of those who grieve: Don't try to fix what cannot be fixed. Give comfort. Listen. Hug. Hold a hand. Give an invitation and insist. Be available. Allow for tears. Don't say, "There must be a reason." Or, "God only takes the good ones." The first assumes that God reasons like we reason, and that is human arrogance and projection. The latter is hollow comfort. Be real. Show love and caring to the ones who mourn. 

4. For the grieving: Accept invitations. Go out. Be with people. We grieve best when we grieve together. That why we have funerals, wakes, visiting hours and memorial services. It's true in fun situations, too, when you are the only one grieving. Be with your friends, be with your family, go out among the crowds, drink in their joy, feel their rejoicing; they will feed you if you let them. Taking a short break, a short respite from your grief will do you good. Don't feel guilty about a little fun, and don't worry about what gossips think of you. Their turn will come, and then you, in your sorrowfully gained wisdom, will be the compassionate and forgiving one because you will know what they are learning: that a broken heart is an open heart to the Divine. 

5. Mindfulness helps: Here's a time-tested mediation tool to uplift you through the holidays. It's simple. It's easy. It will help you grieve and to bring you peace. Stop a moment now, and take a breath in, breathe in your grief, breath in your pain; breath it in gently and with focus, now exhale peace into the universe, into the world, out on your breath, ever gently, inhale your pain, exhale your peace. It is opposite and unexpected and that is why it works. Friends and family may join to support you, on their own, when they will, by breathing in your pain, and breathing out peace. 

May peace surround you, may peace be upon you, and peace infill you.


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