To my friends missing loved ones this Christmas,
You. Are not. Alone.
You’re not the only one who finds this time of year difficult. You’re not the only one wishing you could stay in bed instead of going to be with friends and family. You aren’t the only one pasting on a smile and excusing yourself from the festivities to go silently cry in the restroom. You. Are not. Alone.
Grief is very deceiving. It tells you that no one else knows how this feels, that no one could possibly understand, that you shouldn’t tell anyone what’s happening inside your mind and heart. Grief convinces you that the way you feel isn’t normal, that you’re being overly dramatic or there’s something wrong with you. But here’s the thing, in the eight years since my parents died, I have talked to a lot of people who have suffered loss and trauma and grief, and we have all thought those exact same things. And we have each shed tears as we whispered, “I’m so sorry that you know this suffering, but you have no idea how much I needed to know that I’m not the only one.”
You. Are not. Alone.
Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a certain area. If that’s true, I’ve been an expert in grief for about six years now. It isn’t the thing I would have ever expected or asked to be an expert in, but here I am. Every time grief begins to try and overtake me yet again, my battle plan includes speaking hope to other people who might be fighting grief too. So here I am. Hopefully speaking some hope into your wounded soul.
Earlier this week on Instagram Lysa Terkeurst wrote, “But God has whispered deep into my soul, ‘I haven’t cursed you with this. I’ve entrusted you with this.” God has told me that too. At times when I’ve asked why this has to be my story, His answer has always been, “Because I knew you were strong enough. I knew you would run to Me. I knew that you would use it all for good.” That doesn’t mean God caused my parent’s accident, He absolutely didn’t because He doesn’t make bad things happen to us. But He did know it would happen and allowed it because He knew part of my healing and my determination to find some semblance of purpose in all this pain would mean doing everything I can to bring some hope and healing to other people. And above all else, to show people who are hurting that You. Are not. Alone.
Grief is so lonely, so isolating, so suffocating. In the darkness of nights when you’re not sure your heart can handle the pain you’re feeling, it seems impossible that you will survive the moment, so the idea of ever living a full life again is unfathomable. And nothing lessens that pain except time and prayer. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it just takes time to get used to the new reality you’re in. Prayer doesn’t immediately erase grief or prevent it from ever hitting you again. But prayer, at least for me, is my lifeline in those dark, painful, lonely moments. And when I say prayer I don’t mean big words and forced gratitude, I simply mean communicating with God. That might be asking for help. That might be asking for answers or hope. Or that might mean screaming that it isn’t fair for you to face this. Prayer is talking to God, not the words that you’re saying. So, if you need to tell someone how much this hurts or how angry you are or that you’re not sure you can survive it, you can tell God. I promise He can handle it. He has certainly handled all of that and then some from me.
There is no five-step formula to erase the affects of loss. There is only surviving, asking for help, and giving yourself grace and time. You can’t rush the healing process, no matter how much other people might assume you should. You can’t bypass the pain to get to the healing, you have to walk straight through the most agonizing places. And you can’t compare your private pain to someone else’s public victory. What you need and when you need it is between you and God.
There is nothing wrong with you. You are not crazy for feeling how you feel. You will survive this. It just takes time. Whether this is your first or fifteenth Christmas without someone you love, it’s okay to have painful moments and days. Whether you lost a parent, a child, a spouse, a sibling, or a friend, pain and loss are pain and loss and no one but you knows how deep the wound goes. You aren’t the first to experience this and you won’t be the last. You aren’t the only one experiencing it right now.
You. Are not. Alone.
You may be lonely, but You. Are not. Alone.
You may be hiding your pain, but You. Are not. Alone.
You may be telling everyone, including yourself, that everything is fine, but You. Are not. Alone.
You may think no one understands, but You. Are not. Alone.
Only you can feel this, yes, but You. Are not. Alone.
You are not the only one whose Holidays include some sadness and longing. You aren’t the only one who simultaneously loves your life here and longs for the life when you’ll be reunited with those lost. You aren’t the only person who whispers, what if, and also wonders, what if not.
We’re in this together, in this club that none of us asked to be a part of. Regardless of how we got here, we’re here. Together. You. Are not. Alone.