We’re in the season of searching for the perfect gift, and I think I’ve found it.

This gift lasts longer than a few days. It is deep, layered, and gives the gift of healing over and over again. We don’t ever ask for it, and it doesn’t come with a gift receipt. It can’t be bought, and can only be received when our hands are open enough to let go.

The gift of grief.

This is my first Christmas without my mom and my 14th without my dad. As I tenderly walk into this season – I’ve realized that the best gift I can give myself and my family is to unwrap the expectation of a perfectly packaged holiday and rewrap it in something true. Grief.

No one adds this to their wish list, and when it’s present during the holidays we’re met with “I know the holidays will be hard.” Yes, they will – but isn’t life hard every day? We often think grief is something we experience short-term, and I disagree. We need the freedom to experience grief every day. 

I’m 48 years old and I promise you I will be grieving my parents and parts of my life with them, until my last day here. That’s not sad, that means I will continue to remember, understand, and survive them by surviving the wounds they created. And in turn that will help me wound less.

A friend recently asked, “what advice do you have for people that haven’t lost their parents yet?” My answer was simple. “Grieve them now.” Grieve them before they are gone. Grieve how they are changing, grieve the relationship you always wanted but never had, grieve the fact that you are running out of time, grieve that they might not be here for some big moments in your life, grieve their wounds – grieve the way they’ve wounded you. And if they never acknowledge your wounding – you’re gonna need to grieve that too.

If your parents have been gone for 2 days, 2 years, or 2 decades, understand that grief is a process we grow through – not something we get over.


Be gentle and generous with yourself about the losses you’ve endured. More than happy memories are allowed to linger. Death doesn’t delete dysfunction. Approach this gift with an open mind. You’ll be surprised by its usefulness and understand that it’s not something that is given or received one time. You can’t use it up or wear it out. It will sit quietly with you and will be one of the best investments you make. It can’t be returned or exchanged. Let yourself receive it.

What happens when the ones you need to grieve are still here and not willing to join you in a gift exchange? I do understand how hard this is. I don’t think I would have as much healing around my father if he were still alive. If he were here, I would still be striving for the love and approval of an earthly father whose focus was on how much others loved him – not how much he loved. I doubt he would have been willing or able to join me in healing through collaborative grief. And I didn’t understand the level of dysfunction and trauma I needed to grieve until years after his death. So remember – it’s ok if your healing is one-sided. Sometimes that’s easier. But with my mom, I wish I had started earlier. She was willing and wanted to make sure “we were good.” And as we received this gift during the last 11 months of her life, we grieved our past, our present, and the loss of our future. Our relationship was tenuous and we had to unwrap a great deal of healing before she left me – again.

Grieving your parents will change how you walk through the rest of your life. And if they are still here it will guide you on how to walk with them through the rest of theirs. You might find yourself in a different place on this journey than they are. Our parents are supposed to be walking ahead of us in life – leading the way, but there might be moments you outpace them. When that happens, you look back, reach out to them, and prepare to walk them home. Once they catch up, your grief will turn into grace. Grace leads to forgiveness. Forgiveness mends our broken hearts and hopefully theirs.

This gift will be expensive. But remember this — grief is tender, it is the best teacher, it’s only gifted through loss.


It’s not wrapped up perfectly and often the wrapping is unexpected. It’s a crazy storyteller and once you experience it you realize a life without it is less, even after what it took from you.

We would never put it on our wish list or add to our vision of the perfect holiday, but at some point, we’ll all receive it. The question is – will you have the courage to open it?


Inspired by what you just read?  We invite you to keep the conversation going by reflecting on the following journal prompts: 
  • What has your experience with grief been like in the past?  Is the process of grief something you are intimidated or reluctant to accept?  Why or why not?  
  • What emotions stir up for you as you think of the imagery of grief being a gift?  
  • How does the idea of healing being one-sided make you feel?  What do you think might keep you from this if healing is only one-sided for you?  
  • Let’s walk through the process of biblical lament here.  
    • Direct your heart to God.  Now, think of what you need to grieve right now.  List it all out, including all the emotions stirred up.  
    • What do you want God to do with these hurts?  Appeal to your Father who loves you.
    • Remember who God is.  How has He shown up in your life, in the Word?  
    • Ask God to help you keep trusting Him as you grieve.  Write a statement of choosing faith in the midst of sorrow and grief.
P.S.  Did you know we sell a beautiful journal collection perfect for your soul care routine?  You can check out the Grit & Virtue Journal Collection here!
Allison Rodgers

Allison Rodgers is a Memphis-based portrait photographer, designer, and writer. The heart of her work is found through story and is showcased in her images and words. She's been married for 22 years, a mom for 21, and a creative business owner for 19.

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