“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
I turned on the radio last Saturday morning and Lite 102 had already started their around-the-clock Christmas music. Yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving and I heard “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Good heavens … . Now I’m not going to start expounding on the hurried timing or how we are totally out of sorts with the liturgical calendar, but let’s talk about how difficult this season is for so many people.
A lot of good people around me have had more than their fair share of sorrow and turmoil during this past year. Crises with illness, death, and family matters have cast a dark cloud over what would have been a joyful observation of Thanksgiving, traditionally a family celebration. Many people are trying to find some of life’s deeper meaning this week, but instead are finding emptiness.
How does one get through the holidays when his or her joy is overshadowed by pain and heartache? How can you make sense out of this season when our culture wants us to share perfect meals with a loving, caring family? To be part of the “magic” of a season that we can’t put our heart into ….?
To be fair, we don’t live in a perfect world and the “magic” of the season that many people are looking for often can’t be found in their homes and families. If that’s the case maybe it’s time to change up your personal expectations and do things differently. Just because you have observed certain rituals or traditions in the past doesn’t mean you have to repeat them when it becomes too painful. Those who are experiencing loss due to death or family changes may not be able to face what was the norm of yesteryear. They need to give themselves permission to change it up and work toward a new, more meaningful “normal.”
Those experiencing loss due to death might consider ways to keep their loved one’s memory alive. Whether setting a place of honor at the table, to a lighted candle to keep vigil during the Thanksgiving meal, to going to morning Mass for this beloved special intention, there are symbolic ways of remembering. Flowers left at the cemetery have been a ritual for many families across the ages. Special flowers though might serve instead as the centerpiece at the holiday table for all to see and appreciate.
Writing is a great therapy for many experiencing loss. Perhaps sharing a personal poem or a written memory might be healing for both the writer as well as the readers. Children can be encouraged to draw or color pictures to help express their feelings. Displayed on the fridge for all to see, these drawings can show the younger generation keeping treasured memories alive.
It is particularly important to not allow the expectations of others to place unneeded pressure on an already difficult time. Sometimes a completely new plan can work wonders. My husband’s first wife passed away the week before Christmas twelve years ago after a long illness. The following year George and their daughter Tracy took a Caribbean cruise during Christmas week. It was a welcome change to family traditions which otherwise would have brought about deep sadness. Days spent in the tropical sunshine and warmth were a healing respite. December and Christmastime still bring sad memories for both of them, but time has helped heal the pain with the addition of new spouses and family members, as well as the grandson who always brings a smile to our faces.
We need to take care of ourselves when the changes in life seem overwhelming. Do what is needed to get through the days and weeks ahead. Take particular care to get enough rest and eat properly. Surround yourself by people who are loving and caring. Try to get outside to breathe the fresh air and see the beauty of nature. And be sure to spend some time in prayer…..
Remember that God IS in the clouds: He will see you through all the challenges and turmoil that come along life’s journey. Trust in Him to lead you through to better days while holding on to treasured memories from the past.
In good times and in bad, God is good: All the time!!
Light a Candle as You Offer Up This Prayer:
Dear Father who art in Heaven,
Please join our family on this Thanksgiving day,
And bless each one as we sit down to pray.
As we remember those who have joined You above
So dearly missed and deeply loved.
Please provide us strength on this Thanksgiving Day:
Bless us with memories of those faraway.
Please grant patience to family and friends as we grieve
And help us reach out to others who are bereaved.
We give thanks to You on this Thanksgiving day:
For Your presence in our lives each and everyday,
For Your comfort, guidance, and never ending love,
And for taking care of our loved ones in Heaven above.
As we light this candle on this Thanksgiving day,
And it glows in memory of those in Heaven today:
May their lights always shine down on us and give us light,
And may we feel their presence along with Yours tonight.
May the peace and tranquility of this Thanksgiving day
Be an everlasting light within each of us along the way.
Let’s bow our heads and give our Thanks to God above
For our blessings, whether on earth or in Heaven above.