Please, I beg you,
Don’t let go of me!
I wrote this poem after my parent’s divorce when I was 12. My family was broken, my faith was broken, and my heart was so broken. I remember like yesterday when my dad threw up his arms and walked away. Our relationship was never the same. Anger, bitterness and hurt swirled inside of me as the years unfolded.
Anyone who’s lost their family through divorce or has lost a loved one has experienced these feelings that I wrote nearly four decades ago: we miss those special hugs, their silly laugh, a sweet kiss or glance as well as meaningful conversation and plain old shoulder-to-shoulder time. We miss their quirky little mannerisms or things they would say. We just miss them! And letting go of them was perhaps one of the hardest things we ever had to do.
Grief has no boundaries, does it? It comes and goes when we least expect it. And sometimes we just can’t stop those tears from falling or that anger from swirling inside as we ask, ‘WHY? Why did this happen?’
Christmas can amplify our grief, be it loss of a loved one, divorce or acceptance of an illness, just to name a few triggering events. In my 30’s, my therapy focused mostly on the grief of my past. And while it’s important to grieve, it’s equally important not to get stuck there. We have to find a way to let go of the past and find purpose in the now.
So how do we do that? The key is in balance. Here are some ideas for you at the holidays to make things a little easier as you manage through changes and grief:
TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE
Whether its divorce, death of a loved one, or an illness, we need to talk openly about what’s different. My clients who experienced grief as children often expressed their isolation, hurt, and confusion when nobody talked about the changes. Find courage to speak out loud about the pains of the heart. Seek to understand what’s going on with the other person. Perhaps the reason your child is angry and acting clingy is because of some grief in his or her life. Ask them about it. Talk about it and respond to that. Remember, the issue usually isn’t the issue.
FIND WAYS TO HONOR THOSE MISSING FROM OUR LIVES
Hang their favorite ornament, tell funny stories, embrace a tradition, make their favorite dish. For kids of divorce, parents need to honor the situation by understanding the sadness and making visitations as seamless and joyful as possible. For those grieving the loss of a loved one, do something they loved! My daughter-in-law lost her dad to cancer two and a half years ago. Her family makes dad’s favorite rice pudding as a way to remember him. Last year, we set a place at the table for everyone we’ve loved and lost-either through difficult relationships or death. We then honored them in prayer before our meal.
EMBRACE ALL OF THE FEELINGS
In America we run from feelings by filling our schedules and ourselves with busyness, stuff, work, electronics, video games, you name it! It’s okay to cry. I always know when I need a good cry because I feel a little irritable or that pressure behind my eyes. So I’ll sit down, put on a sappy tune and let the tears roll. Give a hug, or some comforting words like, “I know you’re sad, I can see it.” Glossing over grief only leaves us feeling isolated and alone and forever grieving.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE CONTRIBUTIONS THEY MADE TO YOUR LIFE
My dad passed away last November. And although there was a lot of hurt in our relationship, I’ve become aware in the last year how valuable some of his lessons were. So this year, I’ll share that with my family--goodies for a future blog post--and ask them to share what they gleaned from his life. We’ll celebrate what he taught us, perhaps shed a few tears, and thank God for my dad’s contribution to our lives.
My father-in-law passed away two years ago. And because of his hard work, we now have a wonderful resort where we can all gather at Christmastime and other special occasions to celebrate and be together. We’re creating some new traditions of our own as we mull around in this new stage in life.
In summary, talk about things, honor your missing loved ones, embrace the feelings, and acknowledge the contributions they’ve made to your life. In this way, you can move forward to find joy and newfound purpose in your life.
Love, kiss, hug and hold one another.
Many blessing to you and your family this holiday season!