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Perspective on Grief: How Long Until it Doesn’t Hurt?

I have some perspective on grief this Christmas.

I don’t know how long it will be before I don’t miss my mother any more.

This year, however, it was better.

Every year it gets a little better.

It doesn’t mean her memory isn’t important; it always will be important.

The searing heat and hatred of a death at Christmas, however, doesn’t underscore everything I did this year.perspective on grief, death at Christmas, how long until the hurting from a loved one's death goes away, how long do you mourn, holiday grieving, funerals

We buried mom twenty-two years ago on December 26.

What is a perspective on grief?

Perspective = “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.”

Grief = “deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.”

I’ve written before about dealing with death at Christmas, and about managing an expected death during the holiday seasons.

Those are among my most read posts.

Grief as a Sine Wave

Grief is as individualized as the person.

I’ve come to see grief as a sine wave of emotion: it goes up and down.

The first years, the wave jolts high and plunges low with grief and rebalance for many of us.

Often you can’t guess at what will spark the emotional swing.

You can laugh over a sweet holiday experience, and find yourself plunged into sobbing in a second.

That’s normal–because your grief is normal to you.

Ride the wave, though, up and down–and don’t get caught in an endless whirling eddy of emotion that never advances.

Over the years the highs may not be so high, but the lows bottom out and soften.

You’ll always miss that person you love, but the pain won’t hurt as much.

No one, however, can tell you how long your piercing grief will endure. You have to live with it, around it and through it.

Getting stuck is the worst part–and often will cause the most pain for not only you, but your family, in the long run.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help from someone else–and often is the best thing to do.

perspective on grief, death at Christmas, how long until the hurting from a loved one's death goes away, how long do you mourn, holiday grieving, funerals

(Photo by Luana Azevedo on Unsplash)

Dealing with a death at Christmas

For years I struggled with my grief at Christmas after my mother’s December 22 death.

Grieving was complicated by my father’s health, which almost immediately collapsed.

We spent the next seven years dealing with him–often showing up at Christmastime when his grief overcame him.

There’s nothing like struggling to muster the emotional energy to bake Christmas cookies with your little girl while fielding phone calls from the ICU.

It was horrible.

I hated Christmas.

The grief roared for years–exacerbated by all the demands of the holidays: singing, tree, presents, “Mom, can we . . . ”

I had children, I couldn’t shuck it all and run away–or could I?

Not by myself, but my perspective on grief began to change when we altered our celebrations.

We still did all the accoutrements and I did find my solace in writing and receiving the annual Christmas letters. (Still my favorite part of Christmas).

But when I finally was able to tell my husband how much I hated Christmas and why, he immediately jumped in to help.

And in one of those curious quirks of life, some of the kids went to college.

That meant Christmas was almost the only guaranteed time they’d all be home together.

Or, in our case, free to travel on a family vacation.

So we did, for many years.

Yes, we missed our loved ones, but the sharpness dulled over time and distance.

Perspective on grief when it sneaks up on you

Missing mom underlies events in ways that still surprise.

This year I stood in the cold section of the grocery store when “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” wafted over the airwaves.

Both times I began to cry.

perspective on grief, death at Christmas, how long until the hurting from a loved one's death goes away, how long do you mourn, holiday grieving, funerals

Grief can catch you in the oddest places. (NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

I felt indignant, “it’s been so long, I shouldn’t be crying now!”

I had sung it over the phone to mom the year before she died, as a surprise.

We didn’t see her at Christmas ever again.

By the time the song ended, I felt better and could shake my head at the absurdity–especially when it happened at the same place two weeks later!

I felt rueful and nostalgic the second time, not seared with grief.

That’s progress.

Adrian Monk’s perspective on grief

We watched an episode of the old TV show Monk last night.

Adrian Monk is a private detective who deeply mourns the loss of his wife in a tragic accident.

Her death unhinged him.

“Would you want me to grieve like that for you?” my husband asked.

I didn’t have to think about my answer.

“No. I’d like to think you missed me, but move on with your life. Love our family, that’s more important than fixating on me and my death.”

He wasn’t worried about it, but it also freed him.

My mom would have said the same thing.

So, we do.

Blessings to you if you’ve lost a loved one or a way of life this holiday season. 

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4 Comments

  1. Peter L

     /  December 26, 2017

    Grief goes on. My mother died 53 years ago and I still occasionally grieve, since I was only 7 at the time.

    Reply
  2. A nuanced and sensitive treatment of a vital subject, Michelle…and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you to write.

    Thank you so much for this.

    Reply
  3. Myrna Little

     /  January 6, 2018

    Last night I finished reading Mrs. Oswald Chambers. Thank you for all the time, hard work, whatever it took you to write it. Biddy is a model for being a widow who loves the Sovereign
    God of our history. /// I have fed on My Utmost for years. The day after my husband of 61 years died was August 11. Only the Spirit of God could have prepared that reading for that day. I have actually spent 2017 learning what it means to “not look for my
    Elijah anymore,” to cross Jordan, to battle at Jericho, to find my Bethel. Between Charlie’s graveside service and his Memorial Service at the church. each member of my family talked about what their Elijah had meant to them. This was an sacred time. So I wanted you to know that this past year I read OC’s biography, have ordered several of the books. And to learn now that Biddy took 3 years to put together these messages has made me want to thank you for this treasure. Myrna Little, Dallas, TX

    Reply
    • Michelle Ule

       /  January 7, 2018

      Thank you for writing to me about your reaction to Mrs. OC and for telling me a little about your circumstances. I’m sorry to hear of your husband’s death, but appreciate your comments about the August 11 reading.

      I just read it and am awed at how apt the reading is for a person who has lost a beloved believing spouse.

      Indeed, as I read it, I kept checking the date to see if it connects with any specific date in Biddy or Oswald’s life–to see if she might have placed that specific theme on a significant personal date so as to comment on her personal experience.

      If so, I don’t know what it is.

      I hope David McCasland’s book, Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, will also feed your heart. It’s what started me on the hunt for information about Biddy.

      Blessings to you and, again, thank you for writing. Hearing from readers is the greatest joy for a writer!

      Michelle

      Reply

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