Saturday, December 19, 2015

3 Ways to Help Grieving Friends This Christmas: Part 2

When I reflect on my family's recent relocation back to Tennessee, I think of all that moving brings.

Change. Excitement. Intrigue. 

Moving can be a really cool "reset button"... Giving us the opportunity to begin again, experience a season of renewal, reinvent ourselves even.

I've experienced all these joys since we've moved back to Tennessee. Some days I'm overwhelmed with the blessing of moving to a city we love and reconnecting with precious friends we made during our first season in Franklin. An added bonus: we've been blessed to meet new friends and begin jobs with wonderful ministries - New Hope Academy for me and Nashville Rescue Mission for Anthony.

But moving has another side... Like almost any other major change it brings a whole other list of things.

Stress. Disorientation. Grief.

Along with the reset button of relocation comes the reminder of all the wonderful things and people we left behind in Arkansas - and in Northern Virginia and even in our birthplace, Maryland. Every now and then I find myself longing for yesterday and the life I've left behind.

When I wrote the first post in this blog series, I began writing out of a desire to help friends and family members grieving loved ones this holiday. I thought of those entering the holiday while suffering major illness. I especially wanted to reach out to those I know personally that may even be facing their final days here on earth. I also thought of my sisters and myself who lost our parents earlier this year, but I realize we're certainly not alone in our grief.

What I hadn't thought about were the other kinds of grief we face throughout life as well. Divorce. Loss of a job. Even relocating to a new town. The list could go on and on.

So it's with this backdrop that I share the second way to help grieving friends survive the holidays... The gift of PRESENCE.

Yes, you read that right - presence. Not presents - although it's certainly the season of giving. (And I'm too excited about the Starbucks gift card my coworker presented to me just yesterday, by the way. "Uh yes, I'll have a grande peppermint mocha please." Pardon me. I digress...)

The gift of presence is the gift that keeps on giving. I'll never forget the hundreds of friends that showed up for my parents' services and visited with us in my parents' home after they'd passed. There were folks from my old neighborhood, old classmates from all my schools - even elementary, and so many church members from my parents' church and my old church in Baltimore.

I'll always remember the many people that visited with my parents in the hospital. Each day, as I sat beside my Mom or my Dad, I never knew who might walk in for a short visit. Our next door neighbor that I hadn't seen in 20 years. My mother's sorority sisters. My parents' pastors. Some precious friends of mine that still live in Maryland. Some of the most profound conversations I had this year were in that hospital - with people who cared enough to simply show up and be there.

That season was like an ongoing reunion for me, and I felt so blessed that so many took time from their busy lives to simply share the gift of presence.

So... This holiday season, while we shop for our children's and grandchildren's wish lists, bake those delicious cookies, and decorate our homes and Christmas trees, let's take a look around us. Who's hurting this holiday? Who might need an extra hug right now? Who needs us to meet them for a quick meal or quick cup of coffee in the midst of all this hustle and bustle? Is a face or two coming to mind right now? A few have come to my mind for sure.

It doesn't take a lot of money to love people well. Simply showing up can be relatively inexpensive. This Christmas, give someone the gift that will keep on giving. The gift that will bless them for years to come. The gift that will bring sweet memories and a smile to someone's face maybe even years from now.

This Christmas, let's give the gift of presence.

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