Posts Tagged ‘Grief’

In the midst of the pandemic and the odd times we find ourselves in there are these moments of coming full circle and seeing the ways that God weaves lives and times together… This is a story about that.

Many moons ago when I was living in South Carolina I wasn’t able to go home for Christmas to be with my Minnesota family. It was the year that my Grandma Staab had passed away and I was feeling sad and homesick. Pastor Robin Griffeth invited me to her Longest Night Service… it was the first time I had ever experienced a service of this type and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

It was exactly what I didn’t even know I needed.

A quiet space to be with people who could hold the fullness of the season. The opportunity to be with other people where it wasn’t out of place for me to cry in the pew. No one would wonder if I was okay, or why I wasn’t “Merry and Bright!”. It was a place to come to be accepted, just as I was. Where grief was a companion and was saved a seat and people we loved were named, candles were lit, losses were honored and it was all okay.

Truly, part of this book was created that evening. When I was given permission to be where I was, to grieve and to be held in that moment, knowing full well that the magic of Christmas would weave its way back in my life in new and different ways. It was a space that I was so thankful for and one that I wanted to share with others.

Fast forward many years and this book was birthed into the world. Pastor Robin reached out a few weeks ago wondering if I would be willing to read part of my book at her Longest Night Service unaware of how much comfort and healing her kindness and this very service brought so long ago. This pandemic has reeked havoc in so many ways and in so many traditions, and yet, as all things, has offered opportunities and ways of connecting that were unavailable before. So I was able to Zoom on in and join her and some of her church family and pay it forward providing a chance to share comfort and consolation on the Longest Night.

This year many of my friends attended “Blue Christmas”, “Empty Chair” and “Longest Night” services which have become more common and I am so thankful. To be surrounded in this midst of grief with the knowledge that you are not alone, with the reminder that God meets us wherever we are at in the season and to be held in your moment of need. Community may look different this year, but needing to share time, space and grace remains the same.

For those who would like to read a prayer here is a beautiful piece from author Sarah Bessey.

A Prayer for the Broken-Hearted at Christmas.

I pray that in your longest night you are able to find hope and healing. That you are able to be in whatever place your heart needs and that your Christmas is whatever you need it to be.

With love,


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I love reading  Audrey Kletscher Helbling’s blog – Minnesota Prairie Roots. She covers a wide variety of life in rural Minnesota, festivals, small bits and pieces of the ordinary, the extraordinary and the little bits that weave together a good life. If her blog were a food it would be a tator tot hotdish. Warm, comforting and what you reach for when you need a little taste of home.

I was thrilled when I woke up to this beautiful review of The First Christmas: Finding Your Way After Loss.

Here is a brief snippet of her post:


She calls grief “a wild mess of things that can’t be anticipated.” That seems such a spot-on assessment as we all grieve in different and unexpected ways. Erica advises us to be gentle with ourselves, to allow grief in, to listen to what our hearts need.

I found this statement particularly profound: When grief is invited in…it is then that it loses its power over you, it is then that grief offers itself to share its gifts. It is then that there is space made for joy.

I appreciate that Erica embraces and acknowledges grief in all its pain and darkness. Yet, she writes with the light of hope, of joy-filled moments returning, of strength gained. When I emailed Erica to tell her that her writing touched me and caused me to cry as I thought of losses in my life, she responded, “…that was my prayer…that people would feel heard, understood, and not alone in their grief journey or their choices.”

After you write, read, reread, rearrange, re-write and redo the process ad-nauseum sometimes your words start to lose their shine. The act of being handled, thrown around, taken out and put back in and taken out again makes them look a little weary and a bit stale. So as a writer, when you release your words out into the world it is through the magic of looking at them through others eyes that the words come alive again. Then you can see them shimmering with the hope that they will find the heart they were intended for, and I am reminded that hearing people’s experiences of them is the best part of the journey.

So thank you to all of those who have shared with me their responses to the book as it finds its way in the world. I am thrilled that it has been able to meet people where they are at, to bring the peace and healing that I intended when I first wrote the very first draft so long ago.

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The First Christmas

It has been awhile since I have posted. A global pandemic and a year that just keeps growing wilder and wilder, two toddlers, working full time and trying to keep all the plates spinning and balls in the air means something has to give. For awhile it has been writing on the blog.

Even though it hasn’t been posted here, I haven’t stopped writing. During snippets of stolen time I have been working on a secret project, compiling snippets of prose, revamping a popular blog post, pondering what words grieving hearts need to hear.

And now my secret project is ready to be birthed into the world.

The First Christmas: Finding Your Way After Loss

A gift book to help navigate the first Christmas in grief. A permission slip of sorts to help comfort and guide you. A reminder that what you are experiencing is perfectly normal. Grief is hard. Add in “the most magical time of year”, people’s expectations, our own hearts expectations and it can weigh on us and leave us feeling shattered and alone.

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It is all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest.

Grief is just love with no place to go.

Jamie Anderson

It is my hope that this book will be a companion for you, an opportunity to make the holiday one that is meaningful for you… whatever that may mean to you this year.

If you feel like you or someone you know might appreciate this book here is the link to order a copy of your very own.

A prayer and reminder for you:

May you be held, may you be loved, may you find peace wherever you are.

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This poem reminds me of the power of being present, the ministry that happens when you leave your agenda behind and simply meet people where they are at.

When you are deep in grief it is such a gift to have a person who doesn’t have to fix it, change it or make it anything other than what it is.  Grief is often hard, heavy and difficult… woven with hope, healing and brief moments of respite, but so much of the time it is just heavy.  People spend so much time wanting and trying to be someplace other than where they are at… missing, longing and hurting for the dreams that have died, the person who is gone or for the things that aren’t the way they wish they were… and doing anything to not feel all that comes with that.

It is a beautiful reminder to ourselves to allow the fullness of what is, knowing that “no feeling is final”.  There is a freedom in allowing what is, not fighting it, knowing that it won’t always be this way, but that for now, it is.

If we are lucky, we have these people in our lives who can meet us in the midst of deep grief.  Today I would invite you to meet yourself there.  Allow yourself to be where you are, meet yourself with the holy reverence you reserve for those you deeply love and allow yourself to be right where you are.

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

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For many of my friends this is a “First Christmas”  First Christmas without their dad, first Christmas without a significant other, first Christmas for a variety of reasons… and tonight as I am thinking of them I wanted to send a little prayer/letter out to anyone who might be experiencing their “First Christmas”

Dear one,

This complicates things so much.  It wasn’t the plan, it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, and yet… here we are.

You may wonder how you will get through the day, how you are ever to smile again, much less be “Merry”.

Just don’t.  For one Christmas just don’t.  If you don’t want to put up a tree, don’t.  If you don’t want to send out Christmas cards, don’t.  If you can’t bring yourself to read other people’s Christmas cards, don’t.  And by all means if you want to do it all exactly the same as you always have done, do it!  But, perhaps, for this Christmas, you will give yourself a pass.

Let your expectations drop, focus on the love that remains, focus on the memories, and pay attention to the pain.  Don’t hide it, don’t shove it underneath a strained “Merry Christmas”, don’t drown it in too much liquor or lull it into a sugar coma with too many sweets.  Your pain is inviting you to pay attention.

Your heart has been through so much, it has been torn, bruised and battered this year.  It is time to rest, to repair, to heal.  But in order to do that you must be willing to pay attention to the pain, which we so often avoid.

I remember sitting on the bed crying, holding my heart wondering if it was possible for my heart to literally break, it felt like there was more pain than my heart could hold.  And now I know, yes, the grief manifests itself physically.  But at the time, I wondered if I was going crazy.  Dear one, you are not going crazy, you have loved much and this loss runs deep.

I didn’t know what I know now, that our hearts are amazing, they are far more powerful than we even realize, and sometimes when it feels like it is breaking it is breaking- breaking open to allow more room for more love, more joy, more gratitude, the the process can be painful.

You are allowed to grieve, to have your time, to have this Christmas be a jumbled mess of everything.  Joy, sadness, gratitude, love and perhaps even a moment where it the grief doesn’t feel quite so heavy anymore.

To the extent that you can “don’t anticipate, participate”.  Anticipating when grief will hit is like trying to catch a wave in your hand, it just doesn’t work.  You will sail by moments you thought you weren’t going to make it through and then something else will hit you that you never expected.

Grief isn’t linear and can’t be treated as such, it is a wild mess of jumbled things that can’t be anticipated, but if you participate.  If you allow yourself to fully feel it you will gain trust in yourself again that yes, you can ride this wave, you can do this.  You may not know how, but you can.

Pick a phrase, something that will get you through, something for those moments that you need to focus.  That first Christmas my mantra was from the Amy Grant song “Breath of Heaven”

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me 

Here are a few things I know…

You will be held.  In the midst of your darkest night, there will be someone, something that will remind you that you are not alone.

You will make it through this day, it may not be pretty, it may not be what you anticipated, but it will be over. Hour by hour, minute by minute, you will get through this.

You have the right to say their name, to bring up memories, and you have the right to know if that is too hard, if it is too much right now.  And it may happen in the same day.

You have the right to turn down invitations, to decide what is healthiest for you, without buying into other’s expectations or guilt.

You have the right to listen to your own grief journey, to listen to your heart.

Know there are others who understand, who have been where you are…

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now 

Breath of Heaven- Amy Grant

Know that my heart is outstretched to yours and I am holding a candle to light the darkness.

May you be held, may you be loved, may you find peace wherever you are.

With all my love,


P.S. If you liked this piece here is another post I wrote about dealing with the Holidays. The “Merry” Dilemma

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