Editor's note: Katie S. Brown lives in Fort Wayne and writes regularly about spirituality and health. She is also a Christian Science practitioner and teacher and the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Indiana. The Your Neighbor column is written by a member of a local nonprofit group and appears frequently in Neighbors.
My mother's memorial service was held two weeks before Christmas last year, and I was grieving deeply over the holidays.
Mother was in her 90s, but her passing was within less than three months after living a fairly active life with no walker or wheelchair until that time. My father didn't even put up his Christmas tree so strong was his grief.
I have a full time job, so my days were filled, while Dad and Mom had been married 69 years, spending every day together. He has had a more difficult time missing her.
According to the New York State Office of Mental Health's Grief Counseling Resource Guide, “The grief experience impacts all aspects of the being of the individual. The manifestations listed are more intensified when there has been a sudden, unanticipated death. With the intensification, the period of time to process the reactions will often be longer. It is important to remember there is no timetable for processing. … People are not only grieving, they are also participating in life and those stressors will affect the journey of adaptation.”
There is also today a greater understanding of the fact that grief, especially if it is prolonged, can have serious impacts on our health.
“Grief makes us susceptible to diseases such as the common cold sore throats and other infections,” it says in the article “Your Health and Grief” on the website http://psychcentral.com. “The connection between the mind and body is not always recognized, but there is real scientific evidence that what we think and feel has a direct effect on our biological systems.”
But those effects can be averted. Since last Christmas, Dad and I have been “adapting” together by taking a spiritual approach. It's a method used by many, recommended by those who work in grief counseling — and documented as effective. We talk about Mother and pray together to affirm that she is going on with God.
Shortly after her passing, I opened the Bible to, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you (Isaiah 66:13).”
I also had my own journey through the year. Mother was no longer there for me to call on the telephone or to share a cup of tea with when I'd visit, so it was good to know my Father-Mother God is always with me. I took time out of the busy days to be alone, to sort through my memories and to cherish Mother. I shared more hours with my family and friends, giving my love to them.
The grieving receded, and life has flowed with increased joy for me.
This Christmas, I don't anticipate grief to the degree of last year because my prayers led me to find peace in a deeper understanding of eternal life. I found that focusing on finding light in the midst of the darkness of loss brought healing. It was a matter of being grateful for what I had shared with my mother and what good I had going on that moment, rather than centering on what I was missing or had in the past.
A spiritual approach to grief at the holidays can bring healing to anyone who is missing someone who has died or from whom they are estranged. Numerous tips on how to negotiate a healthier path through the holidays can be found through a Google search, but the greatest tip or gift is the one from Jesus.
Jesus told us, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself (Luke 10:27).” Loving others can replace our own pain and grief.