“Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss.”                                 (According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Three of my adopted kids have major loss issues related to their relationship with their birth parents.  They have worked their way through most of the stages of grief:  numbness, pain, bargaining, rage, depression, anxiety, acceptance. We have actively helped them work through these stages, as much as they are able as they pass through different developmental phases.  Sometimes they revisit a stage when they have gained a new coping skill. 

I can relate to their grief and want to help them through it.  Our youngest biological child, Abby Joanne, died 16 years ago on Christmas Day from a sudden illness.  Though I, too, have worked through my grief, it overshadows much of the happy celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I wonder if a parent’s grief over the loss of their child is greater, less than, or equal to that of a child losing their parent?  Well, we’ll never know.  A more answerable question is:  How do we deal with all of this grief that tends to surface during the great celebration times of Thanksgiving and Christmas? 

I don’t have all the answers, but here are some things we have learned to do over the years that help make the holidays special and celebratory, even amidst our grief:

  1. Give thanks to our good and gracious Lord each and every day.
  2. Remember that Christ is the Reason for the Season of Christmas, and the Christ worshipping Pilgrims were the reason for Thanksgiving.
  3. Listen to Christmas or worship music all day long, especially in the afternoon as you tire and tend to be melancholy.
  4. Plan time each day to be alone, by yourself, to just breathe and be.
  5. Try to laugh in the face of adversity.  On a really bad day, put on the old black and white Little Rascals or Ma and Pa Kettle dvd and get a good laugh with your kids.
  6. Think of others who are suffering more than you with charitable giving, inviting them over, or sending personal cards.
  7. As a family, choose and work together on a project for a benevolence ministry;  we make and deliver Christmas shoebox gifts for foster kids.
  8. Select a charity to assist; use the money you would have spent on a gift for your lost loved one; we donate to an orphanage in my daughter’s name.
  9. Slow down your regular schedule to accommodate a few choice activities like caroling, special programs, and meal celebrations with comfort food favorites to create life-long, positive memories.
  10. Start or increase the frequency of regular family devotions, studying God’s Holy word, and sing praises to Him.
  11. Shop for, wrap, and give modest but thoughtful gifts that make the members of your family feel special and loved; a hand-made ornament with the year date grows special over time.
  12. Get more sleep by going to bed earlier, or sleeping-in as many days in the week as possible.
  13. Eat nutritious food  in moderation at regular meals, so you won’t suffer greatly if you overindulge at special meals.
  14. Give lots of hugs and compliments to your family members, and gently remind them you need some, too.
  15. Do the extra work together as a family (cooking, cleaning, decorating) so as not to overburden yourself.
  16. Focus on family time and couple time, limiting social and church obligations.
  17. Take time to talk individually with each of your kids every day, letting them lead the conversation after you get it started
  18. When time permits, gently ask your adopted child to share their thoughts about the holidays they remember with their birth parents; just listen and affirm their feelings without putting your ‘spin’ on it.
  19. Learn that is okay to say ‘no’ to extended family gatherings that involve revisiting your pain, or being with relatives who just don’t ‘get it’ about your adopted kids.

Our kids need us to be mothers and fathers who are ‘there’ for them every day, through good times and bad.  Thankfully, our Heavenly Father is ‘there’ for us every day, especially in good times and bad.  God knows our loss and grieves with us.  His one and only Son died so we could have life.  He wants us to celebrate that life despite our grief. 

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