How to do the Battle During the Christmas Holidays

Okay, I am going to keep this short and sweet. First, the obvious: Christmas Holidays are dreaded, difficult, and decidedly hard for those of us who grieve a loss during this time of year. Second, the less obvious perhaps: three things NOT to do during the battle at Christmas time:

  1. Turn away from the battle
  2. Walk away from center
  3. Obsess about the loss

Never turn away from the battle. Thats when you get clocked unexpectedly. POW! just like the jagged word-bubble in the comics! Turning away from the battle of grief and loss can plummet you into an abyss of wallowing and wandering. When we aim to ignore our feelings of grief, we can lose a sense of purpose and value in ourselves. Trying to erase feelings, sort of erases us. We need to own our feelings so that we can be exactly who we are, even at the holidays: people whose hearts ache to have our loved one joining with us and our families and friends at all the festive gatherings – like in past years. Embracing our feelings allows us to be present and if we are present, we can be here for the rest of our living-loved ones and enjoy the time we have together.

Walking away from center, the rest of our family (i.e. people who care and share our grief), just gives us the chills. Literally, we are cold and not good for much. A fire burns hot in the middle. Coals in the middle of a fire are red and glowing and good for cooking and throwing heat; the coals that fall away to the edge stay cold, not good or useful for much. It is only when they are picked up and placed in the center that they become good, hot, and useful. We all need purpose and want to feel a part of living life, don’t we? So – we need to figure out how to get ourselves in the middle of the fire. Be receptive to someone gently nudging us, moving us, albeit picking us up – or just get our own feet underneath our legs and walk, run, or leap there ourselves. Either way works, just get to the middle!

Obsessing about our loss usually plummets us into the territory of depression and fear. Hello? We do have a choice. We can choose to obsessively focus on our loss to the ignoring of all else, or we can temper our focus and keep perspective. We need to give a lighter focus to our pain and give a more determined focus to the opportunities of living life fully with those who surround us this Christmas Holiday season. Maybe it’s your spouse, your aging parent, your children, or your friends – all of whom love us dearly. Whoever it is, focus on them. When we focus on others, we cannot focus on our sad selves and often this is what pulls us out of depression. With others, it is less likely we will be full of fear, there is comfort and safety in numbers.

So, in short, do not turn away, walk away, or obsess. Own your feelings and be exactly who you are alongside the people who are the center in your life and focus on them and on life and living. I would be willing to bet that the battle will be a little easier this Christmas Holiday if we do. You and I will be glowing, even though we are grieving.

How to Win the Battle!

When the Battle is too long, we can lose.

We can lose our perspective.

We can lose our motivation.

We can lose our purpose.

It will be four years, this May 27th, that my son lost his battle with addiction, and we lost our son because he accidently overdosed and died. I confess there were many times during these painful trials that I lost perspective, motivation, and purpose.

During the fight and the pain of it all, the struggle for right perspective rages. What is right perspective when we go through rough times? It is not survival. It is focus. When we look only to the troubles and nothing else, we can lose and feel decimated in a sense; we become embroiled and overwhelmed because we lose sight of our most powerful weapon. Our most powerful weapon is faith in Jesus. All of our battles are spiritual; and these battles belong to the Lord. We need to pray and give it all to Jesus; engage in the fight with the power of prayer.

At the beginning of the struggles, we have plenty of energy, stamina, and fortitude. As time goes on, and on, and on, we are at risk of losing our motivation. Doubts run rampant in our every thought. We grow weary of doing good, no matter what we try. We grow weary of doing what is necessary. Our motivation wanes and lethargy and depression set in and soon we are good for not much. Why? Because we lose our focus. Where does our help come from? It comes from the Lord. So, we need to pray and give it all to Jesus; engage in the battles and be sustained by the power of prayer.

A battle that is long eventually brings to mind the question: what is the point? Is there any good purpose in me enduring these battles at all? We become blind to everything except what we see in front of us, the short view; we again, lose our focus. We easily forget that engaging in a battle is for the long haul; you can’t just quit in the middle, we must fight until the end comes – until the long view is more obvious. Each of our hard struggles has a duration for a purpose. Again, we need to pray and give it all to Jesus; ask for sight into the purpose and be lifted up by the power of prayer.

What is prayer? It is a process of relinquishing control. It is putting all your trust in Jesus for the power, stamina, and wisdom needed to continue on in the battles we face. I hope you will consider turning your battles over to the Lord, so you don’t lose! With God, all things are possible and with God, you are victorious, no matter what! Keep your focus where it belongs: all eyes on Jesus.

I do not know what your specific battle is right now. Mine has been a struggle with motivation. Motivation to keep writing my story to encourage others; to keep writing to engage others into deeper thought as the battles rage on. Just recently, I have put my fingers to the keys and played out the musical dance of words onto the screen. Below is a book I have contributed to, in effort to spur you all on to write, speak, and share your stories. Please check this out and consider obtaining a copy on Amazon!

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SUDDEN DEATH

Death, comes unexpectantly!”

A quote from the Disney Pollyanna movie that sadly, couldn’t be truer.

Before my son, Caleb, died a sudden death, I never gave this topic a thought, ever.

It was something that happened to other people, not my family.

Yet the topic of sudden death sits on my mind almost daily as I contemplate the numbers of people dying of Covid, dying on the streets of our country for a variety of unnecessary reasons, especially those who are still dying of an unintended drug overdose, like my son. Or, as I reflect on the numbers of people who died on 9/11, and who died in the many wars throughout history, my mind cannot fit it all in. It is incomprehensible really.

And then, to think of the numbers of the hearts that are broken, like mine.

Sudden death is not a new thing.

It is however, a life-altering, shock-paralyzing thing for those of us left behind.

Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, teachers and co-workers, …my heart aches with yours: past, present, and future, because sudden death just happens. It shreds the heart in a way that no other death does because there is no preparation for the emotions and the loss.

Pain. Tears. Wailing. Anger.

…in my body, …down my cheek, …out my mouth, … in my words, …

Piercing, stinging, whipping, and annihilating the heart of my life.

This is grief. For those of you who have lost loved ones in a most sudden, unexpected way, I see you and I hear your guttural question that takes the form of the three-letter word: W.H.Y.

Honestly, I can answer you: I do not know why. Why my son, or why your loved one. But this I know:

It hurts deeply.

I also know that God knows your pain and He cares because He loves you. This fact does not make the hurt any less, yet, in my experience it gives me strength to face the days, weeks, and years ahead. What matters for me is how am I going to live going forward; this is the test of my faith and character. Who, and whose, am I?

For me, I am a daughter of the Almighty King who sits and rules over all the earth. He knows it all. I do not have to pretend with Him, cuz He knows. I am His daughter, which means I am loved, forever and always no matter my mood or emotions. Who & whose; so important to identify.

It is in this claiming of my identity that I have the strength to go on living well.

I find the most compelling way to live is by dying my own death daily. To put others first and to pour out my love in a way that reflects the love of Jesus in the best trajectory I am able for each day. In this way, the love in my heart that grieves has a place to go and be useful and purposeful.

What does that look like?

Preparing. Tickling. Working. Appreciating.

… to serve others, …the downcast spirit in others, … in practical ways to meet the needs of others, … the life of others in mine…

Praising, trusting, worshipping, and adoring the Lord as he heals the heart of my life.

Sudden death is a tragical thing to endure, that is certain.

I am so sorry if you too have experienced it. Just remember who & whose you are, and if you do not know… I can tell you. You are a child of God who is dearly loved. Look to the Father for all you need.

3 Ways to Endure Loss at the Holidays

My son’s football jersey lay folded on my lap; it will never be worn again. Not by my son and not by any other player on the High School football team. This is the gift offered in honoring my son’s life by the school and the team.

Determination, strategy, and looking out for your friends was my mantra to the team on Senior Banquet night as I encouraged them to be honest, stay away from drugs, and relayed my son’s struggle with addiction. Teammates, friends, of my son, received awards and applause for their contributions and accomplishments as athletes on this night; But, my son, Caleb, was not here on this night with his friends.  Speaking this message on Dec. 7, 2018, was hard.

You know what else is hard? 

Holidays. 

See the source image

Holidays are very hard for those of us who grieve. Holidays magnify the loss of a loved one, no matter if they died two weeks ago, or as in my case, my son died three and a half years ago from an accidental drug overdose; the heartache is heavier around the holidays.

The hard question is: how do we endure it?

I reflect on the words I spoke to Caleb’s teammates: determination, strategy, and looking out for your friends, and believe these are totally applicable to me right now as I endure this holiday season.

Sheer determination is what it takes to stand firm and persevere through the hard emotions, just as a lineman stands planted with both feet on the ground and all his weight pressed forward against the opposition that tries to plow him over. As the opposing teammate pushes against the lineman, hard emotions push against us who grieve and try to knock us down.

Strategy is key. A team does not go out on the field for a play without a strategy. Likewise, we who grieve need a strategy; what plan do we have to help us navigate the holidays when emotions run wild? My strategy is this:

  1. Allow and accept the emotions; it’s okay.
  2. Keep traditions; they provide stability.
  3. Invite others in; don’t isolate.

Lastly, look out for your friends. 

Two-fold, this applies to those of us who grieve, as well as those who watch people grieve. I find when I am feeling low, the best remedy for rising up out of the dark places is to focus on lifting someone else up. This brings me joy: Jesus, Others, Yourself. In this order, I find healing.

If you are watching someone grieve, look out for them by sitting with their emotions, with them. Do not negate them or brush them under the rug, and never say, “you should be over this by now.” (Fact: people do not “get-over” missing their loved one).  Include and invite: open your door for purposeful dates with those friends and speak about their loved one with them in a natural way of remembering; this is healing for us who grieve.

Determination, strategy, and looking out for your friends are three prompts I gave to the football team, friends of my son, Caleb, to spur positive and healthy life beyond the field. They are the same prompts I offer to you so that you may not only endure this holiday season, but have joy too!

Eeyore on the Soapbox

Eeyore is at least consistent.

Image result for Sad Eeyore Clip Art

Always blue, always tired, always with a harrumphing attitude, and yet, he is consistently steady. Plodding along, he still remains in friendship and in going about daily life as best he can. And the best part: he is always loved. The bear, the pig, and the owl alongside the sincerely empathizing boy seem ready to stand by him no matter what.

I am feeling it as the holiday season begins. Yes, I am feeling a bit Eeyore-ish.

Feeling a bit blue about my life situation dealing with residual side effects after surviving my second round of a cancer earlier this year; feeling a bit tired of missing my son who died suddenly just over three and a half years ago; and feeling a bit harumph-ish about writing: does it really matter if I write anyway?

And yet, I plod on, because, well, here I am: writing. Better late than never… August was a while ago.

I am an Eeyore on a Soapbox today.

I am here to tell you to plod on, keep in friendship, keep going forward in living, and remember: you are always loved.

Loss, illness, disappointments, fears, frustrations and hard stuff will always be part of this life. Not one of us gets to escape these things. The storms hit us all and we all get wet, wind-whipped, sand in the eye, and pinged by frozen ice sometimes. Like Eeyore, we all want a new tail because we think it will make things better.

But, a new tail won’t change a thing.

You want to know what changes things?

Good friends, found in both our biological family and in our community family. You know the ones; they are the ones that love you no matter what. Stay close to them, don’t push them away. Be with them even when you don’t really feel like it and let them be with you. This is my encouraging advice to you today. Guaranteed, it will make your daily living so much better.

Even more,

… even still, remember you are always loved.

Jesus loves you better, more deeply, and forever.

I am standing on the Soapbox now. I am hoping it matters that I write anyway.

Jesus came for the Eeyore’s like you and me, the downcast and disheartened people. And he tells us, cast your cares upon me because I care for you.

Jesus is the only one who can lift your chin up so it stays up. He alone gives you the sustaining strength to be transformed. A relationship with Jesus enables you to do more than plod along wishing for a new tail in life. Take courage my friends, Jesus loves you and cares for you just as you are, as an old Hymn says: “Jesus take me as I am, I can come no other way.” Transparent, it is just how Jesus wants us; bring your mess, your woes, and all that makes you weep. He is waiting and wanting to hug you close.

Eeyore’s,

unite with me and come to Jesus; this is my invitational gift to you this holiday season.

Though I still feel Eeyore-ish at times, I feel loved at all times and my chin stays up, even without a new tail.

Thoughts? Questions? Feel free to contact me.