Sunday, December 4, 2016

When Grief is Your Holiday Guest

When grief is your holiday guest...
by Danetta Keller @DanettaKellar

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Everyone said to make a different plan for the holiday. To go somewhere new, to occupy my mind with a new tradition. So I could forget about the one who was absent from our table this year. The passing of my father-in-law, he who was a father to me, was fresh and recent. The holidays loomed like dread.

We scattered like little flocks of birds, each to his own nest. I invited friends to gather and bought new table settings. I walked in the woods with my little daughter and collected pine boughs and cones for our table’s centerpiece. Breathing deeply, I slowly took in the vibrant colors of leaves fading from life to death. I struggled to gentle my soul, to forget.

In the beauty of the crisp air and the startling blue of sky, I thought of him and wondered what colors he is seeing now in heaven. Does earth seem dull in comparison, as though dressed in mourning clothes?

In the sound of the leaves crunching under my feet, I thought of his pristine Johnson and Murphy  oxfords, which he always wore even on rare walks through crisp fallen leaves. Those same oxfords now sat lined up as if waiting, right beside my husband’s side of the bed. Waiting for my husband to try them on, wondering if he could fill the shoes of his father.

Guests arrived and we tried new traditions this year. The house was filled with children’s laughter, the fragrant aroma of my first ever turkey, and the warm conversation of friends who are like family. It was a good day. I wondered how we had made it.

After the dishes were washed and guests were hugged goodbye, the house sat silent as I walked into my kitchen. The silver still needed to be dried and put away.

I stood unable to move, paralyzed as I looked at the lovely array of utensils. This had always been mine and Dad’s job. Every holiday, after stomachs were full of delicious food and hearts were overflowing with fellowship, he and I took to the very particular task of washing, drying, and putting away the beautiful silverware carefully in its cedar chest.

The sorrow started in my stomach, and rose like a geyser to my heart, bursting forth in silent sobs. How can the absence of someone hurt so much? How can he really be gone? Is he really gone? Of course he is. And we must go on. The silver must be dried and put away in the special cedar box.

Grief is a quiet companion in my life this holiday season. She comes in her own time and her own way, placing her hand on my shoulder like a nursemaid reminding me it is time for unpleasant medicine. It must be taken, for me to heal. If I refuse, the sadness builds up like illness and makes me toxic to myself and others. Crying, leaning on Grief when she comes cleanses my soul.

I took my time as I carefully dried the silver this year. I allowed the pain to enter my heart and split it open, one more time. And then I bowed my head as my Savior filled the broken spaces with the hope of heaven. As I placed the last silver spoon against the blue velvet, I resolved to live this year for what cannot fade or tarnish. Dad showed me how to do that.

Is Grief your guest this holiday season? Take hope, broken one. There is another Guest who is near to the crushed in spirit. His name is Jesus, and He will hold your heart though it be broken this holiday season.

There's hope when #grief is your holiday guest - @DanettaKellar (Click to Tweet)

Danetta Kellar is a writer, blogger, and speaker. Her interesting life has taken her around the globe, where she has had the privilege to witness firsthand the transformation of women from all walks of life and culture as they exchange lies for the Truth found in Christ. 

Her writing flows out of this rich experience and her own continual search for treasures in life’s darkness. Connect with Danetta online through her blog, Riches Out of Darkness, and on Facebook, or Twitter.  


  1. A beautiful tribute. Thank you for the reminder to live for eternal things.

  2. Beautiful tribute, message, and writing, Danetta. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  3. Very touching. Thank you for sharing this very personal memory.

  4. Thank you...struggling with the holidays since losing my Mom 3 1/2 weeks ago.

  5. This post touched me deeply. Grief is often a holiday guest, and we have no choice but acknowledge the loved ones we've lost and embrace our sadness.

  6. So lovely, sweet friend. Your words are just right. Beautiful.