Facing Grief During The Holidays: When You Aren’t Strong Enough

Jennifer Palmer Loss

Share Mamalode Share Mamalode

It’s that time of year. The time of tinsel and trees, of gifts and carols and cookies. The time of holidays, of jolly old elves and traveling wise men and baby Jesus in the manger. It’s the time when we gather with those we love. It’s the time when everyone celebrates, when everyone is filled with joy and gratitude.

Except for you. Except for you, for this year, you are carrying pain and loss and heartache and sorrow. You’ve lost a child, a parent, a loved one. You’re facing yet another year with no baby in your arms. You’ve suffered divorce. You’ve lost your job. They’re foreclosing on your home. You’ve been ill. You’ve been diagnosed. There’s pain in your life, in your heart, in your relationships.

Whatever the reason, you anticipate the coming holiday season not with joy, not with hope, but with dread. Even as everyone you know decks the halls and cooks the meals and attends the parties, there’s a hollow place in your heart, in your soul. You feel empty. Alone. Drained.

You brace yourself for the coming weeks and you wonder: Will I be strong enough? Can I do this?

I’ve been there, where you’re standing, in that place of grief and fear, wondering if I had the strength to face another day.

We lost a little girl once, one we’d hoped to adopt, a baby I’d cradled just moments after she was born. She was ours for a full five months before we handed her to her biological father, before we said goodbye.

We lost her in August.

On Thanksgiving Day, I snuggled my new nephew against my chest and I sang to him. The tears came without warning in a violent rush that left me gasping for breath. A month later, I stood in church on Christmas Eve, a service that had always held special joy, special hope, special meaning to me, and I felt empty inside. Like a gourd, hollowed out and scraped bare.  

I’ve been there. I know what it is to look to the holidays with loss fresh in my mind, to ask yourself if you have the strength you need.

And the answer, the one I didn’t want to hear, didn’t want to accept, was no.

No, I wasn’t strong enough.

I stood in that church service, surrounded by families in red and green and gold. The pastor read the old familiar story from the book of Luke. We sang “Silent Night” together, and as the words filled the room, something inside of me broke. Something inside of me broke, when I thought there was nothing left to break, and I wept.

I was not strong enough. Not strong enough to hold it together, to get through the festivities without tears. Not strong enough to face the holidays. Not strong enough to handle the loss and the pain.

I was not strong enough and, chances are, neither are you.

Neither are you, but that’s okay.

It’s okay to mourn, to grieve, to break. It’s okay to cry and to weep. It’s okay to remember what was, to wish things were different, to acknowledge the pain.

Maybe the joy will break through here and there, tiny glimpses of hope in the midst of suffering. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s okay.

Give yourself grace. Lean on those around you. Friends, family, coworkers. Lean on your faith, on God. Let yourself grieve, and in so doing, you recognize the loss. You validate the pain. You say, “Yes. This person, this relationship, this thing I lost – it had value. It mattered.”

You don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to stand tall. You don’t have to put on a happy face.

You brace yourself for the coming weeks and you wonder: Will I be strong enough? Can I do this?

The answer is no.

No, you are not strong enough, but that’s okay. You don’t have to be.


About the Author

Jennifer Palmer

Jennifer Palmer worked as an electrical engineer until her daughter was born, but has always been a writer at heart. She now scribbles in her journal between diaper changes, composes prose in her head as she rocks a baby to sleep, and blogs about finding the beauty in everyday life at . She lives with her husband and daughter in the forested foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in Northern California.

Share Mamalode Share Mamalode
December 2015 – Strength
We are poud to have this ally – Pink Gloves Boxing
Facebook Comments