Advent, Christmas, Family, Grief, Trauma recovery

Newsletter December, 2022


Holidays require a lot of time, preparation, and work. A focus on things that often don’t seem to matter especially when life is full of loss, sorrow, and pain. Whether you are in grief healing or trauma healing or both, our extended holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day can feel relentless. Accompanied by either a cacophony of increased social activity, gift expectations, feast preparations, religious services, family gatherings, scheduling complications, and hectic travel experiences or the agitated silence of isolation and anxiety. Either way, this time requires increased amounts of energy directed toward avoiding emotional triggers, traps, and anniversary issues. Output so often wasted because we cannot continue suppressing the emotional flooding or hijacking regardless of our hypervigilant efforts.

So, what if? What if instead of fastening our seat belts, praying to make it through, and dreaming of the time when this extended performance ends we did something different? What if we embraced these weeks as a time for having difficult yet necessary conversations with ourselves and our loved ones? The conversations which more often than not just simmer below the festive surface. Leaking out regardless. Creating outbreaks of varying levels during a time when we all are supposed to look like one big happy family and community.

What if this dreaded time was an opportunity to say what needs to be said? Speaking into our fears of this time of gathering and reliving what changed our lives without our permission. Emotions named and expressed minimizing the accrual of resentments and anger that we usually either numb with alcohol, food, or drugs or explode out into those gathered.

What if the holidays became more a time of shared reflections of what we’ve healed in the past year, the work we still want to do, and the compassion we are able to give ourselves and each other?

What if these holy and sacred shared revelations became as important as pumpkin pie, beautifully decorated holiday cookies, and holiday sweaters?

What if we looked forward to these yearly conversations, held over a period of six or so weeks? That somehow these conversations felt more needed and less obligatory than the annual fest of too much food and drink, concerts, parties, carols, and movies? Because we came to realize that being fulfilled by our relational transparency with ourselves and others led to deeper connections with the people we both love and need, including ourselves?

What if Emmanuel, God with us, included or even was these connections we made each year with one another? Making the real gift of this season of piled up holidays, each with their own set of implied expectations, an ongoing act of fostering and strengthening human relationships? What if?

Blessings on your holy connections this holiday season. ~Jennifer


“Just Hold On…When Grieving at the Holidays.”

“Dealing With Grief During the Holidays: 28 Ways to Cope.”

“Stress and Loss During the Holidays


Grief Life List

“I’m not getting a tree,” I announce in early December.

“What? We always have a tree,” Ricky counters voice climbing into combat. Cave into his insistence.

Drive south, to the edge of Iowa City. Snow storm brewing across grey streaked sky. Sons grumble as they pick out and cut down tree. Farmer saws end off making rough places plain. His sons tie tree to roof of our car. Drive back home. Snow whirling around us. Beautiful. Scary.

Decorate tree. After Epiphany, thought of taking tree down makes head swim. Sends me back to bed. Remember year before. Ricky, in pain from losing his dog, his dear friend to the ravages of suicide, and his mind to a medical mystery screamed at us for trying to take down the Christmas tree. All Tony and I could do was soothe our beloved son. Once again feeling helpless in the face of this unknown something eating him away. Promised again and again we would keep the tree up forever. While he sat on the sofa staring at shedding, browning branches and listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD until Spring. When there was now no doubt that the tree needed to leave.

This year, in a trance, put away ornaments. Strip off lights. Ask sons to haul tree outside to curb. Vacuum up mess. Sit on same sofa gazing at empty spot left by tree, by Tony.


A good read in which religious historian and author Karen Armstrong brings together the thinking and practice of many of the world’s religions on growing compassion for self and one another.


If your organization, church, podcast, conference, library, or literary festival is interested in inviting me to speak, preach, or lead a workshop, please click here: Invite Jennifer to Speak.


A Time to Mourn & A Time to Dance made the list of Best Christian Grief Books for 2022 at Choosing Therapy!

© December Newsletter, 2022: All rights reserved by the author.

Image by Monika from Pixabay.

1 thought on “Newsletter December, 2022”

  1. So, something about what you say here makes me think of an Advent that we’ve forgotten – forty days which we’ve successfully turned into multitudes of parties and gatherings that all end abruptly on Christmas day. Instead, maybe those forty days could be spent in “shared reflections” and “compassion we are able to give ourselves and each other”, working together on the hard stuff after which celebrating Christmas might be immensely more meaningful.

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