Managing Grief during the Holidays with Pastor Ryan Ross
December 11, 2020 - Episode #45 - Managing Grief during the Holidays with Pastor Ryan Ross
We are in the middle of the holiday season in the absolute worst year. The grief feels simply overwhelming. Can there be joy, even hope in the middle of the suffering? This is our topic on today's bonus podcast as I'm joined by Pastor Ryan Ross of City Church Melissa in Melissa, Texas.
Join Ryan and I as we discuss the grief of losing our moms and some specific ways to cope with grief and loss during the holiday season. We are all grieving in this year and I hope that you will find some encouragement on today's Healthy Harmony podcast.
To connect with Ryan, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Full Transcript below
Where else to listen: (note: Google is only available on android devices)
December 11, 2020 - Episode #45 - Managing Grief during the Holidays with Pastor Ryan Ross
Welcome to the Healthy Harmony podcast. I'm Jennifer Pickett, your host, your health coach and your friend. We are in the middle of the holiday season in the absolute worst year. The grief feels simply overwhelming. Can there be joy even hope in the middle of the suffering. This is our topic today, as I'm joined by pastor Ryan Ross of City Church Melissa, if you've been struggling, keep listening. I think you'll find some encouragement today on Healthy Harmony. My guest today is he's not just any pastor. He is my pastor. He's my family's pastor. And he is a friend, his family are also our dear friends. So we are just very grateful for this man and this family. And I tell you that because here's the most important part being his friend. And he also being our pastor, we see him at church and then end in social times as well. And he is as real as it gets. So what you see is what you get with today's guest, my pastor, Ryan Ross. So I'm so glad that he is here. And Ryan, I just want to say welcome. I'm glad we're doing this.
Thank you, Jennifer. It's a, it's a joy and I'm humbled and honored by your words, but yeah, just thankful to be be able to be on with you. And thanks for this opportunity.
Yeah, definitely. So, you know, this is it's the holidays and this year is wow. I mean, we don't even have the words to describe the horrific nature of 2020. And I think we're all, we're, we're struggling so much with anxiety and stress and fear and overwhelm, but also grief. And I know you're no stranger to grief having lost your mom a few years ago. So tell me how do you cope with grief during the holidays?
Yeah, you know, the holidays of course bring about kind of a unique season of grief. And I think anyone who is listening knows what I mean by that. And you know, we just, this last weekend it's our family tradition to go pick out our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and decorate and kind of begin our Christmas celebration. And of course, you know, that follows the day of Thanksgiving. And so that this week is just filled with lots of traditions and and traditions come from our families, you know, our our upbringing. So a lot of what I do now as a dad and husband is things that I did with my mom. And so every one of those moments and celebrations and, and kind of traditions, fun things that we do, of course now has a just a twinge of grief with it and sadness that you know, it brings back, I remember, you know, Hey, this is what we did with mom, and this is how we did that.
And, and so this season, of course, I think for anyone who has experienced grief, just, it, it definitely I think hits us in a unique way. And, and you, and I both know that grief comes just whenever it does, you can't, you know predict it. You can't I mean, I guess you could say, Hey, we know in the holiday season, there's going to probably be some that comes, but, you know, in your day-to-day life, a Tuesday morning at 11:00 AM, something can happen and it'll just hit you, just that sort of moment of sadness. And and I say moment, it could even last longer than that. And so I think for me, what I try to do especially in this season where I'm missing my mom even more and reminded of her loss more than perhaps on a random Tuesday in June is just really thank God for what I do.
Now that I learned from her and what I'm enjoying because she taught me, you know, and, and, you know, in a sense, in some ways established these traditions for our family. So I my mom loved the Christmas tree and she she loved decorating the Christmas tree. She loved going with us once I had a family. She very regularly if he wasn't with one of her other grandkids families she was with us often picking out our tree and then coming over and helping us. And I'd always help her get a tree. I'd take it to her house. And she and I very often would end up kind of doing the first wave of decorating. And so you know, this last weekend, when we were, we were doing that and I was thinking about her a lot.
I try to just sort of focus my heart on and, you know, mom would love this. And and I thank God that I had a mom that took joy in the Christmas tree and taught me to really celebrate this season. And and so just try to kind of, you know, coach myself up in a sense to to have joy and to remember and see the goodness that I received from her. And while I miss her and I wish she could be a part of it, I'm also so thankful that I had a mom that taught me what she did.
And your mom, you know, listening to you talk about the Christmas tree in your mom. It brings a smile to my face, cause I knew your mom. And if there was one word to describe your mom, it would be joy. I never saw her without, even in the hospital. I never saw her without a smile on her face. She didn't, it wasn't a smile. It was like a light from within, she radiated joy. I mean, just radiated joy so I can see how, you know, picking out the Christmas tree. I mean, she just, she loved Christmas, right?
Yes. And all of the Christmas sweaters.
And I think it's so good for us to like what you said to just kind of coach ourselves, but, you know, allow ourselves to go there and think about those times, you know, where it was, it was, it was very joyful. And think about the funny things, you know, like you said, the Christmas sweaters, it's it kinda, it, it does something different inside of us as we acknowledge the grief and we acknowledge the loss, but also we look at man what joy we had when they were here. And I hear you having lost my mom. And of course, James having lost both of his parents. So none of us are strangers to grief. What I really like, how you said to see the goodness. So I want you to go into that a little bit farther because I think so often I know sometimes when I'm, when I'm in that kind of grieving moment, I'm kind of stuck in that. Woe is me. I feel sorry for myself. And I'm focused more on the, the sadness and not the goodness. So how do we make that shift to see the goodness when we're in the middle of that, of that moment?
Yeah, that's that's probably the hardest thing to do is to remind ourselves of that there is good when we are, you know, in our darkest moments in days. And and so, you know, one of the things that's so vital is just to remember God and his purposes and plans. And I use a word and a phrase you've heard me say often, but it's God's sovereignty. And I know that's sometimes a big word, but it just is really simply means that we know that God is real, he exists and he has purposes and plans that he accomplishes. And so often when we, if we can, you know, again, just for myself and, and try and even help others, if we can somehow take a little bit of a step back and realize that there is so many things in our lives that are good and joyful.
And, and again, just thinking about my mom and you, you think about your mom and and anyone else that's dealing with these types of just hard days and grief over someone recognizing that there, there are so many good things that we receive from them and ultimately those good things were gifts from the Lord to us through them. And so he, he showed us his goodness in, you know and given me again, a mom that loved Christmas, a mom that taught me so much a mom that was filled with joy in all seasons. And so really just directing our attention there and, and that isn't to say and I think you, you said it well that we need to give ourselves permission to be sad and permission to grieve, you know, the culture and the world around us. And especially during the holiday season, everybody’s just, you know, happy and, and you, you could be tempted to think, okay, I, I'm not allowed to cry. I'm not allowed to have a sad day moment in this season. And and, and some people, you know, may have been like, why are you, you know, why would you let this get to you? Why would you think that way it's okay to be, to have that? I mean, and it is right to grieve you know, we are, when we grieve, we're ultimately acknowledging that the world is broken and things aren't as they should be. And we know that. And so allowing that to just you know, some space for that, but at the same time it, isn't good to just stay there to forget, allow that to be the dominant thought. So what I try to do is just allow myself, you know and I've done this many times over the last few years, but to to cry, to, you know, to just be, you know, sort of sad, I you know, this may be silly, but I still have my mom's phone.
And so, and I still have voicemails from her on my phone. And I'll, you know, periodically just be, you know kinda missing her and, and I'll play those and guess what, I know they're gonna make me even more sad. But at the same time, it's kind of like, I just get to hear her voice, and there's a comfort there. And in doing that, I have that moment of grief and sadness and tears flow and all that guilt comes with that. And then I'm also hearing her voice I'm reminded she was a great mom and I was blessed to have her as my mom. And and so I can, it's almost like a launching pad for me to then begin to reflect on the goodness. And and you know, again, sometimes I have to tell myself that, Hey, don't forget, you know, there's so many good things that I am enjoying in life because of who she was.
And, and then I turned that to the Father and I just, you know, know that, Hey Lord, you, you gave me a great mom and you blessed me in this area. And I don't understand exactly what your plans were for her life and why, in my view of things, at least it was cut short. But but I trust that you're good and I saw your goodness in her all the time, so I'm not gonna lose sight of that or, or, or act as if you're no longer good. Because I don't understand exactly what you're doing in this situation.
I love that. I just love that. And I like how you really made that transition from, you know, acknowledging the gift that we've been given. You know, after, after we lose someone, just acknowledging that the gift that we had when they were here on earth and the fact that we have that permission to grieve, we can have those moments, even if it's more than a moment, you know, I, I use that term. Then giving ourselves permission to grieve, but not staying there. And then you said something key about using that as a launch pad to move forward. And I think sometimes we get stuck there, we get stuck in the grieving process, or you know, for me, it's just kind of getting stuck in that, you know, woe is me. I can't believe I don't have my mom anymore that remembering God's goodness and and looking forward with hope.
And that's what I want us to talk about next. Because both you and I had such amazing, strong Godly women as moms and there was no doubt that when they their time here on earth was done, that they moved on to their eternal home with Jesus Christ and they're in heaven. And so how do we continue to acknowledge that hope? Because I can not imagine ,Ryan, going through the loss of my mom without that hope that I have in him, that I will see my mom again one day. So how do we, how do we reconcile the grace and the hope?
Yeah, well, you know, one of the things that is true and we know is that we, we can't have Thanksgiving. We can't have joy if there isn't suffering. And that's a, that's a principle that has many layers to it that you can unpack, but just in talking about grief and these sorts of things, you know, we know the goodness that we have in life and those things because we've experienced the suffering in this life as well. And there's a direct link, a correlation between those two things. And ultimately I'd go all the way back to, you know, we, we have ultimate goodness, what you just referenced. Our moms are with Jesus today because he suffered on the cross and laid down his life. And took on all that he did in order to bring about the salvation of the world, which, you know, the joy that was set before him is how he referenced all those who are with them and are His you know, have been adopted as sons and daughters of the King.
So that idea suffering and pain is just directly and very closely connected to joy and to hope. And so I think keeping our eyes on that future hope is really you know, where we, we have to direct our attention and kind of keep our focus. And you said it well, you know, we know, and I've, I've experienced this many times as well, where you know, sadly I I've grieved with people that, that seemingly maybe don't have that hope, don't know the hope of Christ. And, and I I'm so thankful that you know, in those really dark days, those first few days of losing my mom, that I grieved and again, still grief today, but we don't grieve as the Bible says without hope, because we know what the future holds for us.
And and that's really where, you know, I go so often in this, even it often makes me laugh. It kind of pulls me up out of those days of sadness and grief is to just think about my mom enjoying the presence of the Lord, like perfectly in a way that I don't yet. And I know that's where I'm going to go and I'm going to be with her also, but I just think about and you know, that smile, you referenced it, you know, when she would sing in church. That's one of my strongest memories of my mom is seeing her singing in a choir at church and just imagining her singing to Jesus in person. If Jesus is going to tell somebody to calm down in the choir, it's going to be my mom.
And, but I can just imagine her, you know, with him in that presence and you know, it just, it, it, again, that, that makes me smile even right now saying that and thinking about that, but it also, it gives me great hope and assurance to just know that that's the truth and there's there's nothing that could convince me otherwise. But, but I do know that, and you know, the, the Psalms often reference, you know, the pain and the suffering. You know, I think of Psalm 30 and it says weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning. And that joy that comes in the morning is that's the new day. And and again, we know that this world is broken. It's not as it should be. And so that's why there is suffering and pain, and we grieve and we have loss, but we also know that one day, all things will be made new. And in that, that time we will have no more suffering and no more pain. Our moms are already they're experiencing that and we will one day join them. The same reason that they had are because of Christ.
It's, you know, it's such an interesting concept because I think, you know, as we in this world, it just tells us we're just supposed to be happy. It's just, everything's supposed to go smoothly. We're supposed to be happy, but I love how you, how you said you can't have joy without suffering. And so that, and I know for me personally, it's in those times of such intense struggle and suffering, that's when I draw closest to my Lord and Savior. And I mean, I would love to say that that's just something that just happens naturally. And I just, you know, do that naturally, but it seems like when times are good, I'm kind of clicking on my own, you know, trying to figure this out on my own. When times are really, really bad. That's when I truly, truly turn to Him. That's where I've seen the most spiritual growth in my life is when, in times of intense struggle and suffering.
And and I just love that, how you put that, that joy comes in the morning and we can't grieve without hope. And that's what we have as believers is we have, yes, we have grief. We're going to have hard times and suffering, but we always have hope. So as we kind of, as we kind of wrap up our time together, what advice would you give for somebody who is, I mean, this year has just knocked them back. I mean, they, they had depression and stress and anxiety going into 2020, and now with the pandemic and all the unrest they, they just found themselves so completely overwhelmed. And at a breaking point, what would you say to that person?
Yeah, first thing I would say is that you're not alone. And as you said, the world, you know sort of paints a picture of everything is, is great. But that's not, that's not the reality. And just even piggybacking on something you said there, it kind of connects to this, this, idea is that, you know, you talked about your feeling closest to the savior in your hard days. And in those, those times when you're down, because you press into him, you lean into him. I also think that in some ways that the reason that we do that is because Jesus was a suffering Savior and he suffered in this world often. And so he's familiar with our grief as he says. And and so in some ways, when we are in those moments, we are almost most like him, which that's always our desires to grow and to be more like Jesus in this world.
And so it's almost in those moments when we are most like Him, because we press in and in the same way, when he was suffering the most, you know, before He's going to the cross, where does he go? He goes to the garden and he presses into the Father and in, in obedience and just submitting his life to God. And so that's why I think in some ways we, we experienced that. So for people who are dealing with grief, I just would say, you're not alone. Don't, don't look at what you see on the outside of the world. And believe that that's the reality. And and so give again, give yourself space to just know that you're, you're not weird, you're not broken, you're not messed up necessarily just because you are dealing with anxiety and grief and all of the experiences of life that we, as you said, especially have experienced this year.
But from there once you acknowledge that you, it, isn't healthy to just, as I said, just sit there and just stay in that forever. And I think one of the best things that you can do and that we can do to help ourselves, as we walk through this life is to just surround ourselves with community. And that might look like one friend that you can talk to and really just open up your life just completely transparently before them you know, and picking up the phone, you know, scheduling a cup of coffee, going over to the, to the house and and just, just sharing and being real about where you're at, because one of God's greatest gifts to us is one another. And so you know, if you, if you think too often, what happens is we think, Oh you know, no one wants to hear about my problems.
I'm, you know, this is me, you know, I need to figure this out, or if I talk about it, I'm going to be, it's going to be people think I'm weird. And all those are just lies that prevent us from taking steps of healing and getting help. And so the very first thing that I encourage anyone to do is talk to someone. And and again, I can start with a friend and then sometimes that means, you know, getting even more help, you know obviously I, in my vocation do a lot of pastoral counseling and there are other professional counselors that can help even beyond where I might be able to help in certain areas and with specific obviously situations. And so just know that God has given you people who love you and care about you.
And if you don't believe that, then you're probably listening to to lies and and not really aware. And so I would encourage anyone who's listening to just reach out to the friend and and share where they're at and allow them to minister. And this is then,you know, kind of where the church comes in. I am a huge believer that when we run to Jesus he has promised us that he's with us even to the end of the age. And another song that I noted in thinking about our conversation. So from Psalm 40 says, I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the of destruction out of the mire bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God, many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
And so that psalm reminds me that when I'm in my deepest darkest moments, you know, I reach out to a friend, I share where I'm at. And then I run to the Lord and the Lord has given us a physical place to run to him. And that's his body, the church. And so go and worship gather with other believers that might not be in the same season as you are. They might be on one of those days where everything's going great. And so they can testify to you of the fact that they have a new song in their hearts today. They were one day in the past in that Myrie bog that they see, and you can look at them and see a picture of the hope that they have, and that can encourage you and lift you up and say, you know what, I, I trust God's going to take me there one day.
And, you know, as I think about my mom and that whole story, and again, it's been three years and you never get over it, it's never past, but I would say that through friends, through community, through the body of Christ, I have been encouraged and lifted up and I can talk about her without completely losing it, which wasn't the truth in the first couple of days, weeks and months I can celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving and think of the goodness. And that's all because the Lord has ministered to me through those friends, through his church. And I've run to Him and not allowed it to just sort of be this place where I sit and stay.
Yeah, yeah. Just such powerful, powerful words. And again, I think all of our listeners can tell why you're my favorite pastor, right. I just said some encouraging words, and you're just so real. And that's deeply appreciated because we're not strangers to struggle or suffering or grief. And I think you've provided such hope. And thank you for remind me, reminding me of that psalm. That's, hasn't been one that I've dug into recently, and it's one that I've heard many times before and it's brought such comfort. And so that is, that's going to be one that I need to go journal and kind of dig into. Cause that's, that's such a powerful one. I just love that when it's just so practical, you know, and He truly is our only Hope. So Ryan, I want to make sure that people know where to find our church and know where to find you. So can you give them that information?
I sure can. You can always email me. My email is pretty simple. It's Ryan R Y a N at, at city church, melissa.com. And so it'd be happy to just receive any communication from you and do anything I can to encourage any of your listeners. And our church address is 2300 vineyard Hill lane, McKinney, Texas. And we are just South of Melissa city limits. City Church Melissa is the name of our church. And we worship on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and 10:30 AM. And again, would invite anyone who's listening to come and join us in worship. We'd love to see you and just minister to you in any way we can.
Definitely. And then Ryan, we've got something coming up. I mean, we have listeners all over, but for those who are local, we have a special service coming up that really helps someone navigate the grief during the holiday. So can you tell us real quick about that service? And I know it's on December the 13th.
Yes ma'am. So December the 13th at 6:00 PM at our church we started this a few years ago and we just call it a service of hope. And it is specifically to minister to those who have experienced loss really in any way during the previous year or years back. And as we've just discussed it's a time for me to lean into my friends and family that are our church family. And just share that, you know, I'm sad because I'm missing my mom during this Christmas season and allowing the other believers that are gathered there with us to just minister to me. And so we, we do that and we have this service intentionally because we do know as we've talked about this whole time that the season is a season of joy in so many ways, but it also can be hard.
And so we just feel like it's really important to acknowledge that grief is real. And that in this season, sometimes more than ever during the year, people are dealing with that. And we want to provide a a somewhat intentional and, and unique time for us to gather together and to just encourage one another with the word of God. And so we worship together we share stories of our loved ones or just sharing the grief that we're experiencing, whatever it might be. So if you've lost a loved one at any season in your life, if you've perhaps experienced a miscarriage or you know, just had a really challenging year 2020, I think we could all come to this service this year more than ever whatever it might be in and you just really want to grieve together, but then also be encouraged with the hope of Christ. We think this service and we hope this service would be a great ministry to, to all of those that find themselves kind of in that situation.
Just such practical encouragement. So I'm glad we let everyone know about that. You can always find out all of these details at citychurchmelissa.com. Ryan, thank you so much for joining me today. I thought this was just a fantastic, very encouraging conversation. Thank you,
Jennifer. And I, I'm glad to have been able to share and thanks for letting me brag on my mom a little bit.
I love it. Well, I mean it, I told you we were going there. I mean that sweet mama guys. We hope that you've got some encouragement today. We hope that you gave, we gave you some reason for our hope in the midst of of struggle. So we hope you have a blessed day and find some hope and peace this holiday season. Bye y'all.