If we’re honest, most of us have feelings of loss over the holidays this year. Join Kristin for some encouragement from the Psalms as we head into this holiday season feeling less than festive.

Feelings of Loss Over the Holidays

by Kristin Goodrich

Over the years, I’ve told and heard many sea stories about military life.

I’ve loved hearing about my Granddaddy Mack’s naval service during World War II. He served in naval air intelligence during the assaults on Sicily and later at Normandy.

My dad has told stories of his mapping ship circumnavigating the world to include charting parts of the Persian Gulf in the 1960’s, and later enjoying plum assignments in Paris and in Denmark. 

As a Navy veteran, I have my own chest of sea stories I have shared again and again.

Holidays serve as placeholders for us to share the same family stories—over and over and over again. In fact, my now-adult kids can repeat their grandpa’s Navy stories almost verbatim.

I want our holidays to be filled with fun stories, laughter, and the making of new memories.

But for me, a sense of impending loss overlays this year’s holiday season. A time of counting what’s lost. Of seeing that things have permanently changed. A time to wonder about the stories we will tell next year.

You see, this year has brought a new dimension to my relationship with my widower dad. I’ve become his “person” as I have taken over his finances and watch over his health and well-being. Recently, our discussions have included phrases such as “memory loss” and “evaluation for dementia.” I’m not sure if we’ll hear any stories from my dad this holiday season.

I’m now facing my own selfish desires about what the holidays do for me and mean to me.

For the holidays this year, we thought about traveling with our adult son to Texas to visit our two adult daughters. Spending time as a family unit is a priority as our son heads to boot camp in the spring. I want to treasure our quirks while being self-deprecating because we know better than to count on having him home for the next few years.

And then I realized that would leave Dad home alone. Selfishly, I wanted to scream, “That’s not fair! What if this is our final holiday season as a nuclear family?!”

After spending weeks “in my head,” I decided to give attention to what the Bible would have to say about my situation. In taking my Bible and letting it flop open to the middle, I usually land in the book of Psalms. Written by at least seven different authors, psalms are poems put to music. (Fortunately for us, the Bible has been translated into English which is why the poems don’t seem to rhyme). Each of these 150 psalms combine a human emotion with an aspect of God’s character.

Encouragement from the Psalms

  • “I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.” Psalm 39:2
    • Stuffing my resentment at having to figure out a work-around made my attitude worse.
  • “O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” Psalm 30:2
    • As I cried out for wisdom, God healed my hardheartedness of wanting my own way.
  • “Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!” Psalm 30:10
    • Putting down my desires willingly takes an effort beyond my own strength.
  • “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;” Psalm 19:7-8
    • God showed me the simple truth of obeying the command to “honor my father” and gives me the tools to look on my dad as God looks on him.
  • “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! (v.14) Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:13-14
    • God will pour courage into me as the next challenges appear – even through the holidays.
  • “The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:14
    • I can count on God’s strength to face the uncertainty of increasing memory loss.
  • “For you [LORD] have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” Psalm 116:8
    • No matter the challenges of this past year, God offers us rescue from death, despair, and destruction.

Do you have feelings of loss over the holidays, too?

Perhaps you, too, are worried about the holidays. Maybe you also are experiencing loss. Perhaps your emotions are all over the place. As an action step, I encourage you to spend time in the Psalms. A starting place would be to pick one of the verses listed above, and then read the entire Psalm. Take time to identify the human emotions the Psalm describes. Even better, take time to identify aspects of God’s character!

For God will tell you amazing stories, over and over and over again. He always delights in including you.  And he will give you new memories which you can later share as a testimony to his faithfulness, even in times of sorrow. Here at Planting Roots, we would love to hear your story!

For more encouragment when you’re feeling loss over the holidays, read When You Don’t Feel Like Celebrating.