Grief and the Holidays

By Guest Blogger: Rachel L. O. Stout, Pastor

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

So, I’m just going to come right out and say it: Andy Williams, you’re full of bologna! This is not, for many, the most wonderful time of the year. Now, I am by no means anti-Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m no Grinch. I love the holiday season: I decorate my home with my family; I play Christmas music in my car, on my computer while I’m working; I bake; I love the time spent with family; and I have the privilege of preparing myself and my congregations for the blessed night of Christmas Eve.


But let’s be honest. It is not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. And that’s okay. For those who grieve (which is just about everyone), the holidays are a glaring reminder of all that has been lost, either in the last year or last years: a child, a spouse, a sibling, a job, a sense of control, home, health, traditions, and so on and so forth. We are more aware of all that was and will never be.

There is something about the way in which we tidy up the holidays that makes our grief all the more apparent and painful. We clean and decorate our homes, we buy special clothes for our kids, attempt beautiful confections we’ve found and pinned on Pinterest, we gather together as family (a feat that is, for some, easier said than done), and we may go to Church. We continue with the established traditions even though they don’t quite feel right. All the while, we are trying desperately to cope with our loss. The confluence of grief and “the most wonderful time of the year” can be chaotic, even disastrous.

It’s important, I think, that we acknowledge that reality, and be okay with it. The holidays will come and go and be what they are. And because of that, it would behoove us all to be a bit kinder and more sensitive to the heartache around and within us. The holidays don’t have to be Andy Williams or Pinterest perfect to be celebrated. We are wonderfully human and messy and so are our holiday gatherings.

As I learn more about that first Thanksgiving, I am amazed at how tension-filled, confusing, and wonderfully exciting it was for those who were a part of it. No one really knew what it would mean to sit down at the table and break bread with those who were different from them. And that first Christmas, well, that was a less than perfect event. Mary gave birth to the son of God without the support of the women in her family or the comfort that home and community would have given her. All of it messy, every single blessed moment. Why would our lives be any different?

So, as a PSA from one human being to another, if we could all just be a little kinder to one another as we go through the upcoming holiday season, that would be a tremendous gift to those for whom the holidays are difficult. While you’re franticly trying to get everything done on your to-do list, remember those whose hearts ache for the ones they love. While you’re receiving family into your home or traveling to be with family, remember those who will be alone. And whether sitting down to a table bursting with food or just a frozen pizza, remember those who will go without.

Upcoming event:
Getting through the holidays can be tough. Join others for an evening of remembering our loved ones who have died. “Getting Through The Holidays” will be held on November 17, at Immanuel Lutheran Church, in Wadena. This is a free community program that starts at 5:30 p.m. and is followed by a meal. The evening is meant to offer support for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one in their life. Everyone is welcome!

To RSVP, please contact Diane Leaders at or by calling 218-632-1335 or 320-759-1270.

About the author:

Pastor Rachel Stout with her three beautiful children – Ana, Brigid and Soren.

Pastor Rachel Stout with her three beautiful children – Ana, Brigid and Soren.

Rachel Stout serves as Pastor at Our Savour’s Lutheran in Sebeka and Balsamlund in Aldrich. Rachel is married to Ryan Stout (a Pastor too) and is mother to three wonderful kids, Soren (8), Ana (4) and Brigid (2).  

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