Most grievers go through…and understand…the yo-yo cycles of grief.
You dread the holidays…then you desperately want to have the ability to enjoy the holidays…then you agonize about the holidays…then you go through a period of time where you just wish holidays could be normal again…and then you may feel guilty when you do enjoy the holidays…then you feel weird…then come to peace about it…and the grief cycle can spin you again out of nowhere…and so on…and so on…and so on.
The thing about grief: nobody who is going through grief signed up for it.
The harsh emotional turmoil.
The crazy emotions.
Nobody in their right mind would even wish it on their most annoying enemy. I know I wouldn’t.
My holiday yo-yo began several years ago…and I sure have learned a lot about God, grief, life, family, friends, and overcoming grief ever since.
Several years ago, my 22 year old sister died on Thanksgiving Day.
It shouldn’t have happened…she had everything going for her: she was married and she was a mom to three beautiful children who she loved with all of her heart. She adored and enjoyed being a mom so much that she was trying to have another baby. An amazing pianist, she had taken piano lessons at a university since elementary school since no teachers in our area could keep up with her talent. An accomplished baker, she and I had been going to several baking and candy workshops since we were in the process of opening our very own bakery and chocolatier…that way we could always have a flexible schedule and have our kiddos with us. She had everything in the world going for her.
But then she got sick. Really, really sick. Really, really fast.
That Fall, we were all on vacation having the time of our lives…a month later, she began to have allergy-like symptoms, and then within a few weeks of feeling ill, she suddenly and unexpectedly died of Wegener’s Granulomatosis (GPA) – a very rare autoimmune disease that was only named in 1939.
Thanksgiving – for years – was never the same…and believe me, I really tried…for over a decade.
During those tough years, I tried vacationing during Thanksgiving to get my mind off of it – to no avail. Then I tried going on a Disney vacation…the happiest place on earth…and during that trip, I had to go to the Urgent Center since I was so sick. In fact, the first several years after my sister’s death, I’d wake up every year around 4am and become violently ill. There had never been a Thanksgiving I hadn’t gotten sick or felt major anxiety for years…until God revealed to my heart a major breakthrough for my holiday grief.
As I pieced together the reasons for my anxiety each Thanksgiving (other than the obvious), I sought God in deep prayer. The last Thanksgiving morning my sister was alive, she had her nurse call us around 4am and ask us to immediately come to the hospital to be with her. We threw our clothes on and got there…only to be blocked from seeing her by her medical team.
Then the Code Blue came…and they revived her. And then the final Code Blue came…and she was gone.
My body remembered the 4am time – and that whole morning – which created major anxiety every year…which created the perfect storm for becoming anxious and ill each Thanksgiving from 4am-10am — the time of being up at the hospital, the code blues, and her death.
After seeking God, He lovingly reminded me that I’m putting too much on myself…and to give all of my tough emotions and anxiety to Him.
I had no control over making it to the hospital on time.
I had no control over my sister’s death.
I couldn’t have saved her no matter how hard I tried.
Although she died young, it was simply God’s timing for her to go Home to Him.
My sister wouldn’t choose to come back to earth…she’s beyond blissful and happy – in absolute perfection, joy, and paradise – with her Savior.
As I shared my heart with God about how difficult Thanksgiving is…He gave me an idea: put all of my Christmas decorations up by November 1, so I can just go straight into the Christmas season.
It is also a great time with God, since I share the last moments of each day during November and December by the Christmas tree talking with Him about my day each evening.
I still celebrate Thanksgiving with my family…and I am extremely thankful for God, my family and friends, and all of life’s blessings…but this solution has helped me to not focus on the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
Although I am super thankful for life, loved ones, and every blessing God lovingly grants me – and although I put on a happy face for the sake of my remaining loved ones…mostly my sweet mom and the kiddos in my life – I still don’t like Thanksgiving.
But I can choose to be grateful for it each year.
I no longer allow Thanksgiving to hurt my heart…I, instead, reflect on my sister’s life and I choose to be so very grateful for the time I was blessed to have her here on earth.
Through giving my heartache, grief, and pain to God, He has been so very faithful to heal my heart.
I will always love and miss my sister…she was so beautiful and amazing I will never forget her…but God has truly helped me through my hardest years.
And I look forward to remembering her each year in a beautiful way instead of a sad way.
I remember the very first year that I actually looked forward to Thanksgiving.
I was still feeling anxiety about Thanksgiving, but I was super grateful for the progress of my grief. And it felt good to not experience the yo-yo of grief – especially from all the years I tried so desperately to run away from the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
I’d spent many years going back and forth trying to make my heart feel something it just didn’t feel…I just needed time.
I encourage grievers to feel what they need to feel. Take your heartache to God.
I think most grievers understand what I’m talking about…especially if they’ve experienced a holiday death…But it’s not just the death of a loved one…it could also be loss of any kind.
Even after you heal, realize all of the feelings of grief can still hit.
The yo-yo of grief is no joke.
I truly hope this blog post helps someone to know they’re not alone in their grief…to be gentle with their heart…to know that grief won’t always be so horribly strong.
Here’s my advice for getting through the Yo-Yo of grief:
- Seek God’s heart. It is truly amazing the amount of comfort and love God will shower onto those who love Him! Making God my closest and most treasured Friend has made all the difference in the world! Even during times when I don’t think a grief situation is fair, He patiently and lovingly always directs me in the right way. I can’t stress this enough…when you feel like you don’t want to trust His plan, always trust His great heart! Fight for your relationship with God…never give up on the true Treasure of His Friendship!
- Be true to your grief. Don’t force yourself to feel anything that isn’t authentic. If you feel sad, honor that sadness. If you feel fine, don’t feel guilty for having a good holiday…it doesn’t mean you love someone less. Good days & good holidays are truly a gift…embrace them when they come!
- Share with your family and friends where you are at in your grief…and don’t be ashamed of your grief. Don’t assume they should know or that they should instantly understand…take the time to share your heart.
- Don’t make family or close friends be mind readers. Tell them what you need so you will have the ability and support you need to get through the day.
- Do only what you feel you can truly do. It’s totally okay to have a relaxed holiday. If you’ve lost someone very close to you, it can take awhile to find a “new normal” for life and holidays…and sometimes the “new normal” you found can suddenly change and need readjusting. It’s okay not to always be okay…and that is totally FINE!! Be gentle with your heart!
- Light a memory candle in honor of your loved one…or do something special to “include” their memory. I have found that lighting a memory candle is a very special way of including my loved ones – it’s a beautiful way of saying, “I love you…I miss you…I will never forget you…I sure wish you were here!”
- NEVER apologize for your grief. If other people are uncomfortable with you honoring your grief or loved one, well tough. Lovingly remind them that you didn’t sign up for your grief experience…you’re doing what you need to do to get through it. So they’re frustrated? Kindly remind them that you’re frustrated too. Losing a loved one is the highest price you pay for loving someone…just because a loved one dies, your love doesn’t die too. People sometimes forget that.❤️
- Be careful to not create future guilt or regrets. I love the quote, “Even though I am grieving, the clock is still ticking, and that’s why I keep living purposefully.” I take the time to truly honor my grief, but I also make a very purposeful choice to celebrate and extravagantly love my remaining loved ones. Just like my sister suddenly died, I realize that is a possibility for everyone else I know too…so I make sure not to isolate myself and I choose to make the most of Thanksgiving and other holidays. I’m very authentic about my grief, I honor my grief…but I also honor my loved ones who are here as well.
This Thanksgiving, I am praying for all of the Grief Bites Family! May you highly treasure God, enjoy your remaining loved ones, and honor & remember your treasured loved ones who are no longer on earth.
Wishing all of you a very peaceful, special, joy-filled, and loving Thanksgiving Day!!
Gratitude & many blessings,
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❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays