God’s promise about pain and loss

December 06, 2021 by Rev. Camille May

Throughout our lives, we celebrate many holidays and special days, such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and weddings. These are difficult days for the bereaved, but for many, the most difficult holiday of the year is Christmas.

Family and holidays are synonymous, and it is at these times our loss is magnified. When a loved one has died, our world often loses its celebratory qualities. The sadness feels stronger and the loneliness goes deeper. Thus, the need for support is often greatest during the holiday season.

Sometimes the anticipation of an upcoming holiday is more difficult than the particular day itself. Uncertainty has a way of creating anxiety and making us feel out of control. These dynamics remind me of Jesus’ words to the disciples shortly before his crucifixion.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 

John 14:27

Christmas Eve at HPUMC

Christmas Eve is such a special day when we get to proclaim the long-awaited Messiah has come! We are so excited to welcome you to HPUMC on this special day. From traditional to contemporary, family-friendly to late at night, with 16 Christmas Eve services, HPUMC has something for everyone. And, don’t forget to invite a friend, co-worker, or neighbor, too!

Jesus’ purpose was to encourage the disciples to lean on their faith in his absence rather than falling into despair. Throughout the passage, he promises that God is with us and gives assurance of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit—our advocate, teacher, and source of comfort. True joy and comfort in the midst of suffering are rooted in the promises of God, which transcends our circumstances.

During this season of Advent, as we wait for Christ to enter our world once again, we are reminded that Jesus is called Emmanuel—the promise that God is with us and saves us from sin and brokenness. There is no promise that pain will never come, but there is a promise that we do not have to face it alone.

Our Savior, fully human and fully divine, experienced pain and suffering. He also embodied community, compassion, prayer, mercy, and new life. Jesus encourages us to lean on these promises, especially in times of loss and confusion.

Practically speaking, planning ahead for holiday gatherings and special days can be a helpful step toward caring well for ourselves and our loved ones. The following are some helpful suggestions. Take what you need and leave the rest.

  • Remember the basics: hydration, nutrition, and rest.

  • Joy and grief co-mingle and work together in a messy way. Experiencing some happiness does not mean you are betraying your loved one. Sorrow goes with us as we heal.

  • There is no “one-size-fits-all” way to deal with holidays. Determine what you need and what is within your comfort zone. As you recognize your limitations, be sure to communicate your needs with others.

  • Traditions are important because they create purpose, connection, and provide roots. This may be a time to evaluate traditions and consider establishing new ones that better fit a changed situation. You might consider canceling an event or taking a year off.

  • For some, staying involved with holidays is a symbol of life continuing and gives a helpful framework during rough times.

  • Decide in advance how the special day will be spent. However, be flexible if you find things aren’t working for you. Remember that the holiday will not be the same and additional stress may affect you emotionally, cognitively, and physically. It is okay to spend part of the time alone if it is helpful.

  • Only focus on how best to make it through this holiday. Take them one at a time. Discover what works and what does not work for you and your family.

  • Keep in mind the feelings of your family members and others with whom you are sharing the holidays. Some give and take is required on everyone’s part. Find ways to compromise so that everyone can remember their loved one in special ways.

  • You can only control yourself and the ways that you process loss. You cannot control how others process and make meaning of loss.

  • Do something special to remember your deceased loved one on special days: light a candle, share favorite memories, let others know it is okay to talk about your loved one, or consider doing something to help someone in need.