A note from Kelly King: I look forward to celebrating the holidays with family and friends. But this isn’t always the case with those we lead. Be sensitive that holidays are difficult for many people, and consider how you can help others prepare for this time of the year.
We are entering a season that is extremely difficult for many people—the holiday season. For some, there is nothing celebratory or joyous about them. I spoke with a woman last week who told me the holidays are hard for her because her father was murdered two weeks before Christmas many years ago. For many, this is a season of pain and anxiety. So, as we are celebrating in the days ahead, let’s be mindful of those around us who are hurting.
With the holidays upon us, I thought it would be helpful to revisit some reminders I have included in previous articles. In my various ministry roles over the years, I have had the privilege to come alongside a number of people in pain and be part of ministries that provide help for those who are hurting.
Here are some tips I’ve gleaned for preparing for the holidays:
- Have a plan. Look ahead at the calendar and identify the specific occasions, days, or moments that will trigger your pain and intensify your grief.
- Choose ahead of time how best to handle those moments, perhaps by limiting your exposure, setting a boundary, not attending, or attending with a friend by your side who will be tuned in to your cues for help.
- Our loss is not the boss of us. Remember, our circumstances do not have the power to ruin our lives without our permission. Rehearse and repeat that to yourself.
- Grieve purposefully in a way that honors your wiring. Engage in stillness, journaling, prayer, meaningful conversations with a friend, have a good cry—all for the purpose of taking the edge off your emotions and honoring the depth of your loss.
- Develop the art of pre-grieving. Look ahead to what will be the more difficult days and make plans to pre-grieve. Mark the calendar and set aside a day or two before the “difficult day” and let yourself grieve your loss. Remember, grief demands expression.
If you avoid giving grief its voice, it will leak out in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
Perhaps you are not facing loss during this season or helping someone else through, but you will find yourself around a table or two with friends and relatives you haven’t seen for a long time. For most, this can create anxiety, fear, and stress.
If that’s you or someone you know, remember these 5 simple ways to hit the refresh button on your listening skills.
- Turn off all technology. The best gift you can give someone is your full attention.
- Maintain eye contact. Listening involves looking.
- Ask questions. Invite them to go deeper into their story, and ask clarifying questions. Not sure where to begin? Instead of starting a question with “How’s (your job)…” try, “Tell me more about (your job)…”
- Practice “active listening.” Regardless of what you hear, suspend judgment and refrain from making critical opinion statements. Listening without judgment does not mean you have to be in agreement with their statements; it simply means you are willing to let them be heard and respect their humanity.
- Listen. Just listen. Don’t solve or fix. Listen to what they are saying, and let that be enough.
Will you join me in praying for one another this holiday season? Pray for those who are grieving a loss or gathering around a table where tensions are high and wounds are fresh.
Please join me in praying that God will continue to bind up the brokenhearted and pour out His comfort this season and beyond.
One more thought in closing: perhaps the best gift you can give yourself this year is to decline an invitation to the table this year. Perhaps that setting is toxic or unsafe for you emotionally or physically. If that is that case, “Thank you, not this year” is ok to say.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.