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Finding Holiday Joy Amid Loss and Crucibles: Gary Roe #144

Warwick Fairfax

December 14, 2022

In our final episode of 2022, we talk with author Gary Roe about how to get through these last days of the year while coping with crucibles and being grieved by losses that grow even more intense. He shares the best practices he’s packed into his book SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS WITHOUT YOU, offering tips on being kind to yourself, finding ways to honor loved ones you’ve lost and accepting and believing a fundamental truth: this holiday will be different, but it can still be good.

Highlights

  • The grief challenges of the holidays (4:02)
  • Gary’s early life of “mixed messages” (5:30)
  • Visited by death and loss … and turning to God (7:54)
  • Taken in by another family (10:05)
  • The emotional challenges of the holidays (17:15)
  • Expectations can be dangerous (17:51)
  • Be kind to yourself (23:22)
  • The importance of memory sharing (27:05) 
  • Not feeling lonely in your grief (30:51)
  • The lessons crucibles teach us (36:05) 
  • Gary’s message of hope to listeners as they experience the holidays (41:39)

Transcript

Gary Schneeberger:

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Gary Roe:

Holidays are, to say they’re hard, I mean, that’s what we say they are hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, hard for somebody who’s grieving. And the reason is that life is hard. But holidays have this unique sort of ability, Christmas and other holidays, Hanukkah, whatever the holiday might happen to be, to surface our losses and kind of throw them in our faces. We have so many memories packed around holidays, that the holidays are basically kind of an emotional minefield for people, I think. And what makes it even more difficult is, well, it’s the holidays. You’re supposed to be happy. I mean, here in the USA it’s fa-la-la season.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Fa-la-la-la season, the most wonderful time of the year. All is calm and all is bright. That’s what the songs tell us about this time of year. But what if we just don’t feel that way? Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. In our final episode of 2022, we talk with author Gary Roe about how to get through these final days of 2022, while coping with crucibles and losses that seem to grow even more intense. He shares the best practices he’s packed into his book,,Surviving the Holidays Without You. Offering tips on being kind to yourself, finding ways to honor loved ones you’ve lost, and accepting and believing a fundamental truth, this holiday will be different, but it can still be good.

Warwick, just to level set for everybody, we just finished the series Gaining from Loss and as fate would have it, we were trying to get Gary to be on that series, and we didn’t connect until later. And then we realized, you know what, this episode is airing on December 13th, Christmas is a couple weeks away, we’re in the middle of the holidays, and the holidays were what prompted us to do the series Gaining from Loss to begin with. So this is really a value add to anybody who’s listened to that series that specifically is going to hone in on some of the challenges we face on gaining from loss during Christmas, New Year’s and this time of year, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. The holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Hanukkah, I mean, we celebrate different holidays in different ways depending on our backgrounds and faith traditions, but just in general this season, the holidays, can be very tough. We can remember those we’ve lost, maybe, and some families have broken relationships for sometimes decades. It can be a time of joy and just incredible grief and loss all mixed in.

And Gary Roe here is really an expert on this, and I just loved reading his book, Surviving the Holidays Without You, which that title says it all. But Gary, just tell us a bit about the backstory. Because you have an amazing background. I mean, you are a former missionary, pastor, as the hospice chaplain, a grief counselor for hospice in Texas. I mean, gosh, that’s got to be one of the most challenging vocations I can think of being a hospice chaplain. I mean, my gosh. But just tell us a bit about yourself and growing up, and just a bit about the backstory. Because what I find is typically our backstory illuminates where we are, often there’s a reason why we do what we do. So just tell us, Gary, a little about you. What was life like for you growing up?

 

Gary Roe:

Thank you. Life was tough for me growing up. If you had told me anywhere along the way that I would be a missionary, a pastor growing up, or if you had said, “Oh, you’re going to be a grief counselor and you’re going to write books on grief,” I would’ve looked at you like you were from another planet. I mean, I was raised in an environment of, I guess, mixed messages. I lost large chunks of my childhood to the evil of sexual abuse, multiple perpetrators over multiple years. And all the perpetrators were family members. So that started things complicated for me, and skewed my understanding of family, safety, love, God, everything from pretty well the beginning.

I lost both of my grandfathers by the time I was six or seven. One grandmother never knew who I was because of dementia. And so my nuclear family and extended family constantly felt like it was shrinking. My parents’ marriage was not good. It was very volatile, very unpredictable. And as a result of that, I think I walked on eggshells all the time growing up. I grew up very, very shy, extremely introverted. But I had this idea that if I could just somehow perform well enough that I could escape more abuse, that I could get the approval that I wanted and needed, and that I could finally prove myself lovable, somehow. And so that’s what I did. I basically turned into a performing animal in school.

I was a competitive swimmer growing up. So in that venue, too, I poured everything that I had into basically people pleasing, performing for other people, and trying to get the love I needed. Along the way, my life was falling apart, my family was falling apart. In the midst of that, in junior high school, I had a best friend that sat right in front of me in homeroom, the first period of every day. After Christmas break, he didn’t come back. I asked the teacher about him. Turns out he died over Christmas break. I was clueless, because he was one of those school friends. We didn’t interact outside of school.

And that’s the first time I can remember ever asking the question why? That one made no sense to me. Nice guy, just wonderful friend. And that really got me to thinking about a lot of things. Long about that time, I had been wondering for a while, I thought, “With everything that’s going on, I really believe that God exists, but if he exists, I really need to know him. I mean, I don’t have what I need here. I don’t have the support I need. So if he’s real, I really need to get to know him.”

And so one of my parents graciously drove me to a church that was down the way and dropped me off there. And I went to Sunday school and worshiped by myself from about the age of 10 on. And a Sunday school teacher took me under his wing at one point and basically introduced me to Jesus. And I wish I could say, just to dispel a myth here, that a lot of people would say, “Ah, you come to know Jesus and things go well for you.” No, that’s not the way it worked for me. I came to know Jesus and the difficulty went up on steroids almost overnight.

My parents ended up separating and divorced. My mother had been drifting into mental illness for years, but we had no idea what that was in the ’60s and mid ’70s. And so she had a mental breakdown, and as a result, I bounced over and lived with my dad. I was with him for about six months. It was the best six months of my life up and to that point. He was healthier than he had ever been. And then one Sunday making lunch, he dropped in front of me of a heart attack, never regained consciousness. They were able to resuscitate his heart and kept him alive on machines for about a week. But then at the age of 15, I got to nod my head that I was in agreement that they should unplug those machines, because I knew my dad would never want to live like that. And I was the closest relative that he had.

At that point, I honestly thought, “Great, my life is over.” I laugh about it because I was laughing about it then. “I cannot believe that this is happening.” My mom got out of inpatient psychiatric care, moved into the apartment my dad and I lived in. It was worse than ever before. She made a suicide attempt, went back into psychiatric care, and I was functionally orphaned and just living in an apartment. I don’t know how the bills got paid, I don’t know how it happened. Child services didn’t get involved. I don’t know how that happened either. And I was going to school. I was working. I was on the swim team. I was busy constantly. And that probably saved my life.

Thankfully, another family that I’d known for 10 years, they were a swimming family, so I knew all their kids. They said, “Why don’t you come live with us?” And they were an amazing family. If I could picture a family opposite, if there is such a thing, so different from the family that I was raised in. And from the very beginning, when I walked into their house, they had a cake in the kitchen that said, “welcome home.” They did not adopt me. There was no paperwork involved. It was just, I went and I lived with them for the last three years of high school.

And that experience in their home, as I watched them parent their other kids and they interacted with me, completely changed the perspective of my life. I would say, in summary, I knew Jesus. I had a relationship with Jesus, but they really taught me what it meant to really do life with Jesus. I actually experienced his love for me through them. And that was absolutely life changing.

And I can remember at 16 saying to myself, “well, if this is the way life is going to be, I’m going to get hit. I’m under no illusions that I’m not going to get hit again. And so how do I prepare myself? Can I prepare myself for the hits of life? And if I can’t prepare myself, because I know I’m not in control, then how can I use the hits that come and turn them around and use them for good, not just for myself, but for those around me? Because if I can’t do that, what’s the point?”

I mean, that’s really what I thought. And so surprise, I graduated from high school and went to school and studied psychology. And from there I went to seminary, and have been in full-time Christian ministry my entire adult life in some shape, form, or fashion.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

One of the things we say on Beyond the Crucible all the time is, “You don’t always really have a choice about what happened to you.” There’s nothing you could have done without getting to all the details, whether it’s sexual abuse, your mother’s mental challenges and psychiatric issues, your dad dying of a heart attack in front of you. All of those things, they weren’t your fault. There’s nothing he could have done about any of them.

But we do have a choice, when bad things happen is we can hide under the covers and be angry and say, “This is not fair.” Everything that happened to you was not fair. It was a combination of unfair, reprehensible, awful, unjust, pick the adjective. It was a combination of all of those things. And you had every right to be angry and be bitter. But you said, “It may not have been right or fair or just, but I will not let those factors that I went through define me. I will not let those determine who I am. I will not let evil win, if you will.” I mean evil, not so much in people, but in good versus evil-

 

Gary Roe:

Yes.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

… in that biblical construct. So you made a choice to move ahead with your life. And just as a young kid, various astute, thinking, “If I can use my pain to help other people, it creates purpose.” Doesn’t make everything go away, but you made a lot of good choices, if that makes sense, that were so helpful. And I want listeners just to both understand clearly you made some good choices to not let the most terrible things were done to you define you.

 

Gary Roe:

Just to be clear, just so there’s no misunderstanding on listeners parts, my life has not been smooth inside or out since the age of 16. Probably my greatest struggle in life has been with anxiety, and that probably doesn’t surprise anybody. I went through a period of anxiety and panic attacks when I was really wondering, “Oh, my goodness, where is this coming from?” And turns out it was coming from unresolved grief about my dad and trauma about all the images involved in that, et cetera. And that was 10 years after he died. And anxiety continued to be an issue. It continued to be something that I work on, let go of, learn to manage, I guess, and learn to just how much can I handle and what kind of stuff I can handle.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

It’s also very encouraging, I hope, listeners, this is encouraging to you to hear Gary say what he just said. Because yes, he’s written 20 books. Yes, he’s counseled folks. He’s given insight, and we’re going to talk more about that as we move on here about how to cope with grief during the holidays, but he doesn’t have it, by his own admission right there, he doesn’t have it all together. His lessons are hard learned. His lessons aren’t just academic, although I’m sure there’s part of that in there. He’s learned things through the crucibles of his life that he can then pass along that, as we say at Crucible Leadership, to live a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. That’s what his crucibles have led him to. That’s what your crucibles can lead you to.

And your losses can lead to gains just as Gary’s losses, incredibly difficult, painful losses. But I want you to go back and listen listener to the way he talked about them. He didn’t sound depressed as he was talking about them. He didn’t sound crushed while he was talking about them. They’re still painful, I’m sure. But he’s moved past them. He’s moved through them, and he’s found joy on the other side of that. That doesn’t mean that they go away. It means that he has tapped into joy. He’s found, like our series that just ended, like this bonus episode of that series, in some sense, he’s gained from that loss. And we’re going to continue to talk with him here so you can gain from some of the things he’s learned as he’s gone through his losses.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I want to transition to your book, because one of the reasons, I know you’ve written many books, but this book, Surviving the Holidays Without You, as we said at the very beginning, the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah, whatever the holiday is, it can be really challenging. They’re times of joy, but of tremendous grief at the loss of a loved one. Oh, I mean, you could easily go back and think grieving the perfect family, whatever that means that you didn’t have, remembering what wasn’t.

Just talk about some of those things. I mean, in your book, you offer so many good thoughts about the danger of isolation, and this year’s holidays will be different, but they can still be good. I know in your first chapter you talk about why holidays are so hard, and you start out with this thought of expectations. So talk a bit about, well, why holidays are so hard? Which we’ve talked a little bit about, but just amplify that a bit. And just what is the role of expectations in making holidays so hard?

 

Gary Roe:

Holiday are to say they’re hard. I mean, that’s what we say they are hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, hard for somebody who’s grieving. And the reason is that life is hard. But holidays have this unique sort of ability, Christmas and other holidays, Hanukkah, whatever the holiday might happen to be, to surface our losses and kind of throw them in our faces. We have so many memories packed around holidays that the holidays are basically kind of an emotional minefield for people, I think. And what makes it even more difficult is, well, it’s the holidays. You’re supposed to be happy. I mean, here in the USA, it’s Fa-la-la season, where everybody’s supposed to be happy, upbeat, spend a lot of money.

And for a grieving person, they normally, we normally feel like we’re on a different page than the people around us, because we are on a different page. Our loss has changed us, but it hasn’t necessarily changed our friends, maybe some of our family, depending on what the loss was. And so it’s almost like we are different people now traveling a different road and our world has changed, but the world around us has not changed. And it is blazing on just as if nothing happened.

How dare people have the holidays and celebrate and decorate, when here I am, don’t they understand what has happened here? And then you put on top of that the individual grieving person’s life situation. Now what do we mean there? Well, their emotional health, their mental health, their job situation, their financial situation, their relational situation. Do they have a good support network? Are they fairly isolated? What is their spiritual life like? And how does that contribute, or how does it not contribute to all of this? All of those things are in the mix too.

So it’s almost like this time of year is an injection of grief adrenaline into a person’s system that raises everything that they experience as a grieving person to new heights. Now, expectations play a huge role in that, because we all have expectations and we all know that the danger is, expectations are sneaky, because we don’t even know we have expectations. But when we go somewhere and we expect someone to remember our loss and support us, that’s an expectation. When we expect people to be sympathetic, even after a month, because that’s what I’ve found in talking to people in my own experience, most people who know us will be sympathetic to our loss for about a month. And then they’ll expect us to do the impossible, they’ll expect us to go back to who we were before, because that’s the person that they miss. And that person’s not coming back.

We are traveling this road now and we can heal and grow and we can become better people. Yes, we can, but we won’t be the same people. So we have expectations of other people. Other people have expectations of us. And the hardest ones though, and I bet you can guess where I’m going, is the expectations we have of ourselves, that, “Okay, I’m going to go in here and shop and I’m not going to break down. I’m not going to feel grief. I am going to go to this party and I am going to be okay.” We expect Herculean, super human stuff from ourselves when we’re grieving.

And so the expectations we have of ourselves thinking through those, just to become aware of them, even three or four of them, I expect myself to be upbeat when I feel terrible. I expect myself to interact with others as if my loss didn’t happen. I expect myself to find joy in these holidays, just like I found joy last year before my loss. Or I expect if you’re one of those people responsible for doing the holidays for your family, oh, bless you, then you might think, “Okay, I’ve got to keep up the act and I have to do an even better job this year.” Expectations can really get us when it comes to the holidays, when we’re grieving.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Just talk a bit about that concept of just being kind to yourself, lower your self-expectations, things will trigger you. Yes, the holidays are different, but just don’t expect yourself to be stiff upper lip and move on, smile and just get over it. Because that’s such good advice.

 

Gary Roe:

Yes, I could not agree more. I mean, grief is a storm and we didn’t ask for it, and we didn’t cause it. But like all storms, it comes to us and it envelops us. And we can attempt to fight the storm, that doesn’t work well. We can try to flee from the storm, that doesn’t work well either. Or we can freeze in the storm. None of those three work. The only thing we can do is exactly that. We ride the storm out, we meet the storm head on. And grief, it doesn’t come from outside of us, it is within us. And so what is in us, especially grief, needs to come out.

So getting the grief out is a phrase I use a lot and just, “What do I need to do?” “Well, you need to get the grief out.” “How do I handle this?” “Well, get the grief out.” Find ways, practical, healthy ways to get the grief out. Talking out loud, writing, art, building something, tearing something apart, exercising, and thinking as you exercise and giving your brain that time to go, just kind of process things in a different way. All of these things are so, so helpful.

It’s almost like we all have a grief reservoir inside of us and we don’t even know it, but it’s raining on our reservoir all the time. There’s losses happening to us every day. We see it on the media, we see it on social media, we experience it personally, loss, loss, loss, loss, loss. And so sometimes it’s just drizzling. Sometimes we’ve got a thunderstorm going on, sometimes it’s just a fog, other times it’s a flash flood, sometimes it’s even a tsunami. And so if we have a grief reservoir, the important thing is we’ve got a dam, and we just need to make sure our spillways are open, so that we have opportunity, that we’re getting some of the grief out, we’re talking about it, we’re writing about it.

And when it hits us all of a sudden in what we call a grief burst, which is we’re just walking along minding our own business, and then there’s a grief trigger and all of a sudden it’s like a lightning bolt, and the emotions are overwhelming. That’s scary. It’s embarrassing, if you’re in public. But it’s also, I think, necessary, because none of us can be fully proactive about expressing our grief. We’re always going to have this buildup and it’s healthy. It’s like a pressure release of grief, where it comes flooding out of us all at once.

It’s like a God designed, built-in defense thing for us emotionally. So all of those things together, the one thing that doesn’t work is stuffing our grief, because grief will be expressed one way or another. And if we don’t express it, then it will leak. And leaks are usually trouble or we end up regretting things. And you know what? We have enough regrets already. So finding ways to express our grief is really, really, really important.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And one of the ways that you talked about doing that at the holidays I thought was really both enlightening and seems boundlessly helpful, this idea of, I think you called it having some memory sharing among your loved ones. If you’re facing this holiday for the first time without someone who’s been there the whole time, have a memory sharing party, where people talk about their favorite memories about the person who’s no longer with us. Why is that so helpful?

 

Gary Roe:

It’s huge because one of the things I hear from a lot of grieving people, and I’ve experienced it myself too, is that nobody brings up my loved one. I want to talk about them. Or if I do bring up my loved one, everybody gets uncomfortable and goes silent and walks away or changes the subject or all of those things. That hurts. And so when we can gather people or when people can come together and it doesn’t need to be a lot of people either, and the understanding is, let’s say we lost Steve this year, we’re going to share memories about Steve. We’re just going to talk about Steve and see where it goes. And yeah, we know we’re going to cry. Yeah, parts of a are going to be painful and difficult.

But what I hear from people that do memory sharing, and when I’ve been involved in memory sharing, it’s kind of scary going in because you don’t know what it’s going to be like. Everybody’s concerned about expressing too much emotion. But what happens is as people begin to talk, the grief begins to come out in healthy and natural ways. And it is emotional. Part of it is painful, but what everyone says, and what I would say is, “Oh, but that was so good. I’m so glad we did that.” Because otherwise, Steve is the elephant in the room. And everybody knows that Steve is the elephant in the room, because we are always hyper aware of who is missing.

So this memory sharing, is just massively important. Even at, let’s say, a grief event where people are coming, if I hold a grief event on surviving the holidays, for example, and 20 people come, I’ll often say, “It doesn’t really matter what I say today. I could say Mary had a little lamb over and over again, and you all would leave thinking that this gathering, this event was the best thing since sliced bread.” “Why?” “Because in this room you know that the other people get it, and you’re going to share your story here. And they’re going to listen and they’re going to share their story.” And lo and behold, that’s the way it works out every single time.

So we heal when we get to share the story. And so we need places to share the story, to share memories. So memory sharing is an excellent and easy way to do that. The one thing I would say is that if listeners want to do that as a group or as a family, that the people coming, you just let them know that that’s what you’re going to do, so that they know beforehand that we’re going to talk about Steve when we get together. The other thing I would say is that we’re not going to linger before we talk about Steve. Steve is the elephant in the room. And we’re going to talk about Steve quickly. In other words, soon after we gather together, we’re going to dive into that. Because if not, sometimes the anxiety about that can just build a little more than it needs to.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Just talk about how we often feel alone in grief and nobody gets it. Nobody can understand. But somehow by sharing… And you say later, you’ve got to find the right people, the safe people to share with. But talk about why it’s so important to share and just to get over just this sense of isolation and feeling lonely and feeling nobody gets it. Nobody understands my heart is shattered into a billion pieces. So talk about that sense of combating loneliness.

 

Gary Roe:

Yes. Grief is naturally lonely. I don’t see how it can’t be lonely. And so then the goal becomes, there are a lot of people grieving, so to put it in kind of a funny way, we get to be lonely together. We all get that this is lonely. And so we get to travel this lonely road together, sympathize with one another, hopefully, empathize with one another too. But the loneliness, we get into danger, and we all know this, when we attempt to chase that loneliness away. When we deny it, when we try to run from it, when we try to fill those holes in our heart with things that can’t possibly measure up and fill that.

And so we’re not really good at this. I’m not really good at this, which is acknowledging my loneliness and sitting with it and feeling it and grieving about that. And recognizing that almost every person I encounter, I would personally say every person I encounter, is dealing with their own hidden loneliness. And it’s a shame to me that I can meet 10 people today all suffering from their own hidden loneliness. And it never comes up. We transact business. We go to the grocery store, they scan my items. Maybe somebody pushes my cart to the car, because my grocery store does that. You don’t have choice. And then you’re just interacting with people that there’s so much potential.

But it’s really on each one of us about how we’re going to deal with our loneliness. And if we’re willing to share it with other people. Many times we would be very surprised at the responses. Some people might run from us, sure, some people don’t want to go there, sure. But what about the person that does want to go there with us, and this is back to what Gary brought up about memory sharing, what a great way to love the people around you is to initiate that time. To give them the gift of an opportunity to express their grief in a safe place, where they can’t really do that anywhere else.

So if we can view our loneliness as this is inevitable as a human being in this world, this loneliness, especially when we’re grieving. And we can say, “I am going to use this loneliness rather than going on a self pity party here. I am going to use this loneliness, recognize other people are grieving and are lonely too. And I’m going to talk about it every opportunity I get. I’m going to think of creative ways that I can mention my loved one’s name, that I can share a little bit of their story.”

And what comes to mind is where I think we’re all familiar with the Salvation Army and with the bell ringers and the kettles. And there was a son who, an adult son, lost his dad, and his dad was a bell ringer for the Salvation Army every Christmas. So what he decided to do the first Christmas was he had never rung, he’d never been a bell ringer. He decided, “I’m going to ring a bell and I’m going to do it for dad, and I’m going to tell people I’m doing it for dad.” So that when people put money in the bucket, he said, “Merry Christmas. I’m here and I’m doing this for my dad. He passed away this year. He did this for 10 years. So Merry Christmas to you, and I’m glad I get to be here.”

He said people would stop in their tracks, some people would just kind of look at him and walk on. But a lot of people stopped and conversations happened. Because so many people had lost loved ones either that year or the year before or the year before or they had lost their own dad or whatever the case might be. Good things happen. I mean, good things happen when we are willing to be vulnerable and share a little bit of our story and our grief. Now, does it always work out great? Of course not. Of course not. But at least we’ve gotten some of the grief out. And so no matter which way you slice it, it’s positive.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

In your case, being a pastor, a missionary helping people in hospice, you’ve used your pain, your grief to benefit a lot of others. And I know, in my case, in some small way, when I use my story to help other people, it doesn’t make the pain, the grief go away, but it makes it a little bit easy to deal with, like drops of grace. So just as we close here, just talk about maybe those drops of grace, and why an eternal perspective. And maybe pain for purpose, while there’s some, I don’t know, a little bit of relief from the grief, at least the intensity of the pain. I don’t know if that question makes any degree of sense. And forgive me if it’s a little bit convoluted a question, but you probably get where I’m coming from.

 

Gary Roe:

I think I do. I really think that this is, well, this is true for me, the times that I have learned the most in life were in the crucibles, I’m almost willing to say that the times that I really am able to love other people and really make a difference seem to be at the times when I am hurting. And so these are unique, crucibles are unique opportunities. They are unique opportunities for us to grow beyond what we thought was possible for ourselves and unique opportunities to love the people around us. I can think of nothing more overcoming, if we could put it that way, of turning pain to purpose, then taking a tragedy and turning it around and finding a way to use what happened to serve other people, to love other people where they are, to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s just huge.

And so that strength, I think, really comes from an eternal perspective, because if I know, just speaking for me, that Jesus Christ lives in me and His resources are measureless, then I’m not just limited to my own smarts or dumbs or my own abilities. It goes way beyond that, just because He’s in the mix. So if eternity is in the mix and we believe it’s always in the mix, then there are things way beyond ourselves that are possible, if we are willing to humble ourselves and to basically receive the healing over time and to cooperate.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That sound that you just heard listeners is not the captain turning on the fast and seatbelt sign, I think I heard Santa’s sleigh bells and he’s about to land the sleigh. And we got to get out because he’s going to come and we can’t see him or we won’t get any presents and all that good stuff.

But before I do that, there’s a couple things I want to do with you, Gary. One, as you were talking, and I wrote this down probably 25 minutes ago, talking about how even in the midst of trying times during the holidays, it can still be good. One of the things, Warwick, found this PDF that you have of eight tips for handling grief in the holidays. And the last one you sum up by saying, “This holiday will be different, but it can still be good.” Not trying to edit the expert, but I read that as, this holiday will be different and it can still be good. It’s not a but situation. I think it’s a both and, it can be different and it can be good.

But what stuck in my head and what I wrote down is when you think about the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, we’ve all seen it, think about what happens in that movie. A whole lot of what happens in that movie is not wonderful. It’s the ending of that movie that makes it a wonderful life. And I think that perspective, if we bring that to the holidays and we know that there’s going to be bumps in the road, there’s going to be bumps in the sled as we’re going over the hills, if we can find a way at the end, it can indeed turn out to be wonderful.

That fa-la-la-la time doesn’t have to be that every moment of every day as we’re going through Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years. But if we can do some of these things that you talk about, we can indeed land on that place that is a wonderful life. And I would not be a wonderful cohost if I did not give you, our guest, the chance to let listeners know how they can find out more about you and your books and your perspective. How can they find you online?

 

Gary Roe:

Well, you can find me on my website. It’s just my name, garyroe.com, G-A-R-Y-R-O-E.com. Don’t go looking for me on social media, because you won’t find me. I basically got off of all social media recently. It was just a personal decision. So I’m trying to handle everything through my website. There’s a Contact Gary box on almost every page. There are a number of free resources under the resource tab, free eBooks, a free email course, et cetera. So if you’ve resonated with anything I’ve said, please come visit me and we can dialogue some more. And hopefully, I can be of some help, somehow.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Excellent. Warwick, I know I kind of landed the sleigh after you already asked the last question, but the last word is yours, if you have one.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, thanks Gary, as in Gary Schneeberger. So Gary, Gary Roe, I love that sentence that we just heard the holiday willnbe different, but it can still be good. I mean, I would love if you could offer listeners a word of hope this holiday season, and maybe it’s around, it will be different, but it can still be good using pain for a purpose. You’ve said so many wise things. But just there are probably a lot of listeners going into the holiday season with trepidation and anxiety, as you write in the book, “I just want to get through it. I’ve got to do this. It’s going to be a lot of work, a lot of memories. I just want to survive it. Thriving is not an option. I just want to survive.” So what’s a word of hope for listeners who are approaching the holidays with trepidation, anxiety, and maybe even fear and dread?

 

Gary Roe:

Yes. This may sound a little trite, but on my calendar every day I write the word today in big letters on top of today. What am I saying? All I’m responsible for is today. I don’t know what’s coming at me tomorrow. I don’t even know what’s coming at me today. But in other words, the whole one day, one thing at a time, one moment at a time, beginning to discipline ourselves, if we can, to just say, “Just one thing at a time.” That’s one way we can really be kind to ourselves.

And the other thing I would say is, please remember now is not forever. What you’re going through now, one thing that we are can be absolutely convinced about of grief and life is things will change. They will change. So now is not forever. Just do what’s in front of you. Take one thing at a time, one day at a time, and please be kind to yourself along the way, kinder than you think you need to be. And very patient with yourself. Because this is just, as we said before, hard, hard, hard, hard.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And those are the final words of our episode. And I think a great final thought as we find ourselves today. If you’re listening to this when this goes live, it’s December 13th. We’ve got a couple weeks until Christmas. And taking some of those lessons and going into the holiday with that perspective, it’s going to be hard, but it can still be happy. You can still find the happiness in the hard. I think that’s what we’ve talked about today.

And that’s what we try to talk about all the time here at Beyond the Crucible. So until we’re together the next time, and that will be in 2023, when we are together the next time, remember this, we do know that your crucibles are difficult. We do know that losses are painful. We’ve all been through them, everybody on this call, two of whom are named Gary. We know that’s the case, but we also know it’s not the end of your story. Those crucibles, those losses can be the beginning of a new chapter in your story that can lead to the best destination possible, because that destination is a life of significance.