by Willie Lieberman, Believe Big Merchandise and Apparel Coordinator

Grief. Grueling. Recurring. Incessant. Encompassing. Fierce.

Does it ever end? Is the part of me that ‘is no more’ gone forever? Has that part of me been replaced by this grueling, recurring, incessant, all encompassing, fierce feeling of GRIEF?

It’s the holiday season. The world is aglow with brightness, and laughter, and family, and promise of one happy moment followed by another. That’s so true for some, but for those of us who have been left behind by the death of a loved one, not so much.

We who have loved desperately and were then forced to release that love are the only ones who can possibly ‘get it’ when it comes to the mixed emotions of the season. The songs. The smells. The traditions. SO good. But, they each bring back a moment in time that we long to experience just one more time.

w2I lost my precious husband, Mark, a year and a half ago, following a very long battle with a multitude of health issues. His death came as a blessing in one sense — the fight and struggle was finally over. Because of our faith, he knew, and I know, that we’ll see each other again. But, physically, he’s very much gone. I can’t see him or touch him or hear his voice or laugh with him until it was nearly impossible to breathe! I miss him desperately.

When I opened up the ornament box and set out the nutcrackers he bought me for every Christmas, my heart broke. I placed the final one he gave me beside the first one he gave me.w3 The final one was a tribute to the outgoing German Coin — appropriately named with a double meaning for us. ‘The Last Mark’. Oooooh, that did it. So, there he stands… my German nutcracker, my final nutcracker, the end of a Christmas tradition from the man I loved more than life itself. The man who is no longer on this Earth. The man I’m grieving for.

So, how can I cope? How can WE cope?

For me, I start my day with a quiet time. I’ve been doing this for over twenty years. I grab my coffee, my Bible, my journal and I meet with God every single morning. I pray out loud. My prayers are not typical or rote. My prayers are from my heart and are literally conversations with God. I am just ‘me’. I laugh with Him, I cry, I plead, I get sooooo angry. I question His will for my life. I ask forgiveness. I forgive. There is no topic that is off limits between God and me.

After the conversation with God, I say ‘good morning’ to Mark and converse with him (don’t judge!) – it gives me peace. By the time I get to the kitchen for my second cup of coffee, I’m sometimes already depleted. But, most days, I’m able to move forward and attack the day filled with hope and strength.

I also survive by focusing on what I DO have and not what I don’t. I have my two beautiful daughters (my angels and lifeline to the world) and my eight grandchildren (the loves of my life). I have my good health, my lovely home, my Country, and my freedom. I have my church, my friends, and my family. If we count them every day, we will always find that our blessings way outnumber our burdens.

I am also surviving by giving back, both financially and by serving others. There is such joy in giving. Try it. It’s free. Let someone go ahead of you in a long line or in traffic. Smile and say ‘thank you’ to even the grouchiest person you come into contact with. Bake treats and deliver to someone who is suffering or alone. The ideas come when you have a servant’s heart.

w4And so here I am. Alone. It’s now ‘dinner time’ as I write this and… I miss my husband. I could sink into a funk and be miserable. Or, I could make the most of this gift of a few more waking hours and count my blessings. Think I’ll do the latter. I’ve got some awesome leftover ziti with shrimp in puttanesca sauce in the fridge calling my name, a crisp salad, a glass of red wine, some hot bread, TV… what could be bad?!

Merry Christmas. I pray that each of us can find happiness in this Christmas season while suffering in our own season of grief. Let’s focus on the good and all we have to be thankful for. Let’s love on those special people in our lives. Let’s help others. Most of all, remember to ‘believe with all your heart’.

This post originally appeared on www.SheKCLifestyle.com