EMPTY CHAIR, BROKEN HEART: GRIEVING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS by Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner Is there an empty place at your table this Christmas? For many, this will be their first holiday season without their loved one. For others, it’s been several years since their loved one’s passing, yet the sting of missing their presence is still there. It’s okay to remember them. This year, my dad is celebrating his second Christmas in heaven. We recently visited dad’s grave at the beautifully decorated Central Valley Veteran’s Cemetery; a moving experience to see hundreds of natural pine wreaths with their bright red bows placed lovingly in front of each white marble headstone. Dad would have loved it. My new husband Jim Turner and I began decorating for Christmas in our new home Thanksgiving weekend. As I’ve pulled out my favorite Christmas decorations, finding just the right place for them, we’ve been able to share a lot of good memories but I’ve also been ambushed by grief. This is my seventh Christmas since Pastor Paul’s fatal motorcycle accident tore him from my arms and caused his untimely home-going. I treasure remembering joyful Christmases past with my late husband and elementary aged children. I cherish revisiting the family memories (pajama-clad on Christmas morning, donning Santa hats with our pet cats, dogs and ourselves for the annual photo shoot). Accepting the harsh reality that my first husband will no longer be part of my future is an important part of my personal healing process. “You and I will be different because of our grief,” says H. Norman Wright This is true. However, as grievers, we have a choice. Will you let grief take you to a place of compassion for others? Or will you be stuck in selfishly running awfulizing circles around your own losses? (Awful-izing circles convince us that our situation is worse than anyone else’s and that God doesn’t care about us. This is a lie.) I chose to refuse to believe the lies grief tried to tell me by working through the “Five Tasks of Grief ” by Dr. De Vries, shared in Nancy & David Guthrie’s GriefShare Recovery Group.