“Surviving the Holidays” Tonight and Dec. 10

The temperatures are cooling and the beauty of turning leaves that defines October is beginning to give way to the stark look of bare trees that marks November. With the advent of cooler fall weather, of course, comes “the holidays.”

Though Norman Rockwell and Hallmark would have you believe that the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving and the worldwide celebration of Christmas mark a period of time richly peppered with merriment, warm fires, abundant food and always-intimate family gatherings for everyone, there are many among us who dread their approach.

For someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one in the last year, for instance, the approaching holidays act as a constant reminder of just how much their lives have been changed, and just how much they have lost.

In the case of those my husband and I meet through the divorce recovery ministry at The Crossing, those reminders of change and loss are particularly painful; not only have they suffered the loss of a spouse, but the break-up of a family also means the breakdown of many of the family traditions they have long treasured.

The holidays are not special to us because each year is new and unique, but because they are an opportunity to return to the old and familiar. Traditions are built up around foods, destinations, and people. “Grandma always makes her special cranberry salad at Thanksgiving.” “Every year we put the Christmas tree up as a family, with chili and hot chocolate for everyone.” “We always go to my in-laws’ for Christmas Eve with the children.”

When I was growing up, Christmas Eve at my house always included a big meal with ham, scalloped potatoes, buttery peas and soft rolls. The first year I didn’t spend Christmas Eve at my mother’s dinner table eating this exact meal, I felt thrown off, as if I’d somehow missed celebrating a part of Christmas.

There is comfort, security and a sense of belonging that comes out of the traditions that we create within our families, and the absence of that trip to the in-laws or the lack of cranberry salad on the Thanksgiving table can really make it feel like it’s “not quite right.” The loss or change of even one tradition can create a hiccup in our sense that this year’s holiday was “all it could be.”

Imagine, then, when your family is torn in two, and it’s not just the cranberry salad or scalloped potatoes that you’re missing, but the majority of those experiences that historically made the holidays special for you. The holidays aren’t simply less joyful. They can be deeply, deeply painful, and there’s no avoiding them. It’s not as if you can just ignore Christmas and pretend it isn’t coming.

While there isn’t a way to avoid the reality that your life has been significantly changed – and let’s face it, avoidance wouldn’t be healthy, anyway – there is a way through this season that will provide opportunities to enjoy the holidays and deal with the change in a healthy manner.

Beginning new traditions and preparing yourself for the “emotional ambushes” that lie in wait is the focus of “Surviving the Holidays,” a two-hour seminar developed by Church Initiative, the same organization that developed the DivorceCare curriculum. For those going through separation and divorce, particularly those facing the holidays for the first time in this new paradigm of loss and sorrow, this seminar can offer practical suggestions for how to make it through the holidays…and even enjoy them!

Partnering with Parkade Baptist, The Crossing has offered this seminar to the Columbia community for the last two years. This year, we are also partnering with Woodcrest Chapel to offer Surviving The Holidays twice, once before Thanksgiving and again just prior to Christmas.

The first of these two sessions is being offered tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Woodcrest, 2201 West Nifong. On Saturday, December 10, The Crossing will host this event for a second time, and once again our three churches will work together to bring hope to hurting people who may feel put off by the pressure to “be happy and enjoy yourself” during this season.

If you are going through a separation right now, or have been through divorce and still find Thanksgiving and Christmas to be painful experiences, I encourage you to join us tonight or on December 10, and seek out new ways for approaching the holidays. If you know of someone going through separation or divorce, I urge you to forward this blog post and encourage them join us as well.

For details on both tonight’s session and the event in December, click on the flier graphic at right.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

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