There is no doubt the holidays will look and feel different this year. This is to be expected and many of us are growing accustomed to holding plans loosely during this year of pandemic, but during the holidays, which can already be a difficult season for many, not being able to travel to see family and friends will make this a very difficult time of year.
As a physician, I want to acknowledge it’s important to stay safe during a pandemic and do what we can to minimize the spread of COVID-19. But I also want to address the pain many of you are feeling this holiday season.
Messages of Christmas joy and holiday cheer tend to remind us of what we’re not joyful and cheerful about. We remember the loved ones who are no longer here, the financial strain we’re facing, or we feel alone during a time when it seems everyone else is surrounded by friends and family. This is why Christmas can surface so much grief and pain for people.
I ache for my mother and father at Christmastime. Christmas day was my father’s favorite day of the year, and he spent months thinking of unique gifts for each of us. My mother decorated every nook and cranny of our home. I see the look on their faces when we came down Christmas morning. And I’m reminded they are no longer here.
This Christmas, even if you are not grieving a loved one you’ve lost, perhaps you are grieving a loved one you can’t see due to it being unsafe to travel. Maybe you’re grieving the large family gathering you host each year. Maybe you’re grieving not being able to exchange gifts in person and having to mail them instead.
We are all grieving something, big or small, during this unique holiday season, and it’s important to be honest that while the holidays are joyous, they can also hurt, especially this year.
So, what can you do with your grief this season? Acknowledge it, but don’t acknowledge it alone.
Reach out to a friend.
You may not be able to do this in person, but text a friend, set up a Zoom call, send an email—whatever you can to share your grief with someone you trust. Tell this person how you’re feeling, what you’re grieving, and what pain has surfaced during this time. Chances are, your friend has had similar feelings. Sharing pain is one of the best ways to lessen its hurt.
Reach out to God.
Even though Christmas can surface the pain in our lives, Christmas is also the answer to that pain.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know that I have a strong faith. I don’t always talk about it so openly, but I believe that God is real and that he sent himself in the person of his son Jesus to communicate his love to you and to me. This is the message of Christmas. And this is why Christmas can be the greatest healer of that pain.
There are not many sure truths in this world, but these are the most important and profound truths you could ever know: God is real. Jesus Christ is real. And he wants to let you know this very minute how very much he loves you.
Even if you’re not sure you believe that, think about it. Let it sink in. Don’t dismiss the idea of God’s love because you never believed it before. Perhaps this year, more than ever, we all need a faith in God, a God who loves us, cares for us, and will protect us. This Christmas season, accept God’s love as the greatest gift you could ever receive.
This has been a hard year for all of us for many different reasons. If the holidays are hurting this right now, know you’re not alone. Be honest about your pain, tell a friend about it, talk to God about it and open your heart to the love only he can give.