Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How to Cope When You're Stuck in Your Grief

  • DiAne N. Gates Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated Sep 20, 2016
How to Cope When You're Stuck in Your Grief

If you’ve lost a loved one in the past three years, chances are on November 1st you wish you could take a sleeping pill that will last until January 5th of 2017.

Truth is, all of us live life from one holiday until the next. February brings Valentines, then Easter is next in line, followed by Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, then the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, birthdays and anniversaries are smushed in between these festivities—and they are all difficult days.

Then we begin again. Next year.

But if you’re agonizing over the death of a loved one, holiday celebrations are brutal reminders of who’s not there to celebrate with you. You’re sad and lonely. Very lonely. But there is help and hope.

This year will be the nineteenth Thanksgiving without Mama, the seventeenth without Daddy, and the fifteenth without our daughter, Michelle. And two years ago, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I had a meltdown.

You’d think after all this time I’d be able to get through a holiday event with only a twinge of an emotional setback. But when I opened Mama’s silver chest to polish those family treasures that would grace our dinner table, memories of Thanksgivings past rushed down the corridors of my mind, ripped through my heart, and tumbled out in a river of debilitating tears.

I collapsed in the middle of the floor and gave myself permission to shed that heart water of love and loss that honors the lives of those who’ve gone home before me.

Tears of grief are liquid healing. Tears that scripture tells us, God saves in a bottle. Tears necessary to move us through the grief process and into our new normal.

But what happens to those who refuse the opportunity to cry and grieve? Are they stronger? Are those of us who weep and grieve weak?

Absolutely not.

Each family member grieves in a different manner—each person’s grief is unique. And most every family who has lost a loved one has at least one member who refuses to do the grief work. They choose instead to bury their grief alive because they believe their sorrow is much worse than anyone else’s and much too difficult for them to bear. The problem is when grief is buried alive there will be a resurrection one day. Or perhaps on many days, year, after year, after year—most often during holidays.

The quicksand of buried grief incubates anger. Anger blossoms into bitterness. Bitterness transforms itself into rage. And that rage dresses and terrorizes, in many colors and forms—sullenness, rudeness, unexplained irritability, unreasonableness, inability to demonstrate love within the family unit, stubborn refusal to participate in and accept the joy and thankfulness of the season. These reactions can damage or ultimately bring death to living relationships with family members who are dealing with their grief.

These desperate souls have stumbled unknowingly into a quagmire of grief and will not or cannot escape the devastating consequences of their destructive choice.

They are stuck in grief.

Can we do anything to help these scalded, scarred folks?

Love and prayer. Prayer, prayer, and then more love and prayer. 

But we can’t heal them, only God can—if they seek Him. However, we must not allow ourselves to become entangled or sucked into their web of chaos. 

Like any other behavior, becoming stuck in grief is habitual. And habits are hard to break. However, catering to bad behavior ensnares all involved in co-dependent relationships.

There are no time limitations on grief or healing. People have come to GriefShare after 40 years of being stuck in grief. And when they do the grief work, God promises to heal them and to restore the years the locusts have eaten.

As we enter the soon coming holiday season, where does Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2016 find you? Like me, pausing to remember and shed those treasured tears of grief? Or are you the one stuck in grief? Or perhaps you find yourself dreading the family gathering around the tree or table this year, fearing the eruption that is sure to come.

Surviving the Holidays is a wonderful place to begin the necessary healing. Go to the GriefShare website www.GriefShare.org and click on the link to find a Surviving the Holidays event near you. Ask family members to attend with you. Work to keep lines of communication open within the family. Ask God to break down strongholds of anger that cause family discord.

Every holiday becomes bittersweet a few years after loss. And it’s okay to cry, to feel sad, and to remember.

But hold onto the truth that the day is coming when there will be no more tears, no more separation, and no more death. Until then, I’ve wondered what sized bottle has God used for my tears all these years later? My guess is a giant washtub. What size bottle will He need to hold your tears?

“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?” (Psalm 56:8 NKJ)

Author’s Note: If you need help dealing with your grief this coming Holiday Season, please feel free to respond to this article. I have been a GriefShare facilitator for the past 13 years. There is help and hope available for you today.


DiAne Gates illustrates and writes fiction for children and YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order as evidenced by her blog Moving the Ancient Boundaries. DiAne worked as a photographer and writer for the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association magazine, and had the opportunity to be in the rodeo arena, giving birth to her western rodeo adventure series, ROPED, available on Amazon. The sequel, TWISTED, will be released by Prism in early 2017. She also facilitates GriefShare, an international support ministry for those who’ve lost loved ones. 

Publication date: September 20, 2016