Gems for the Journey

Grief and the Holidays

From the window behind my computer, I look out onto a hill where there is a small Christmas tree farm. Just minutes ago I watched as a family of four wondered among the trees. They finally stopped at one in clear view. Dad and boys stood in front of the tree as mom snapped a photo. Then the excited boys got to work with the saw. Eventually they felled it themselves and dad helped them haul it up the hill.

It was a living picture of something so central to the holidays—family time. Which is also the reason those in grief sometimes find the holidays to be especially difficult. This is one season when the deceased family member is obviously missed.

Here are five suggestions for dealing with grief during the holidays:

1. Allow yourself time to listen to your emotions and express them in some way. Did you know that chemicals in tears are natural pain relievers? Cry when you need to. Journaling or writing a letter about your feelings are another healing way to find release.

2. Give yourself permission to relax. Light a candle. Turn on some comforting music. Take a bubble bath.

3. Remember that it is okay to leave parties and events early if you need to. Plan ahead for travel in case an early departure is needed.

4. Read books about other people’s grief experiences. C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed is a classic. I will be adding a page on grief books to the website in the upcoming weeks. (As well as info about my own soon to be published book.)

5. Many people find it helpful to start each morning thinking about one thing they are grateful for. As their list of things they are grateful for grows, a new sense of purpose for living develops as well.

Photo Reflection

As you may have seen in the photography section of the site, I find nature's images to be very helpful in processing my emotions. Here is a photo with a reflection that I wrote earlier this year. Of course what I see in the photo is greatly impacted by what I am experiencing in my life at the time. I may have written something different today. (If your email system does not provide html formatting, you can see the photos on the back issue section on the website.)

My Reflection:

I see detailed designs of ice and snow overlaying dry grass. The ice is in focus and draws my attention. My eye wants to follow the edge of the ice in and out around it's many shapes. There are holes, fozen little pockets of air. There are clear, glassy spots and milky chrystles. Yet the warm colors of the orange-brown grass call to me as well. The sun's reflection reaches down to them through the space in the snow.

Although the grass is out of focus, I feel strongly connected to it. I feel a sense of waiting. These individual blades of grass have died, yet beneath our view there are roots that live on. Roots that are waiting for the melting of the snow that weighs it down. Waiting for the stronger, warmer rays of the sun. Waiting for the few remant strands of green to multiply declaring to all the life that is hidden below.

I feel centered and I know one season leads into another. Today I will be present to the beauty and the weight of the snow.

Photo for Your Reflection

What longing, pain, hopes, emotions does this photo touch in you? If you would like to write about it, choose one emotion and give it your full attention.
New to the Site

I recently had a letter from a reader asking where to start with a memory book. I thought her question might be something that other readers are asking as well so I added this page.

Retreat Offered

If you are local to Pennsylvania, you may be interested in a series of retreats that a friend and I are offering. This retreat provides space for participants to explore their spiritual journey through scrapbooking, photography, and other visual arts.

No art experience is necessary, just a desire to enrich your prayer life and connect with God in new ways around your life story.

Both Mary and I found the artistic expression of life journey to be healing as we worked through grief following the death of family members. Mary enjoys working with paper collage and fabric. I enjoy writing, scrapbooking, and photography. You can find out more info on the site by clicking here.

Feel free to contact me anytime, if you think of anything that would be a helpful addition to the site. Also feel free to pass this newsletter on to anyone you might know who would find it helpful.

May you find peace today for your journey,