Many of us are experiencing a different kind of Christmas this year, thanks to COVID-19. Quite possibly, some of us are also grappling with grief and loss in a season that’s supposed to be filled with merry and bright.
I know what it’s like to experience grief and loss and Christmastime.
It was a frigid December day, just five days before Christmas.
Everything was cold, including the first-row wooden church pew I was sitting on with my family. The elaborately decorated sanctuary before me captured my attention. I had attended many a service in this church–my childhood church–during Christmastime, but never had I seen the sanctuary look this breathtaking. A brightly lit Christmas tree. A perfectly displayed manger scene. And, some of the most gorgeous red Poinsettias I’ve ever seen filled the front of the church. It was everything lovely.
You’d think with such beauty and splendor this would be one of the most special days of Christmas ever. I wish I could say it was. However, this was my worst. I was saying goodbye to my mother at her funeral.
Who buries their mother just five days before Christmas?
When the rest of the world is rockin’ around the Christmas tree and making their lists and checking them twice, how is one supposed to mourn the loss of her best friend during what’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? When others are decking their halls and trimming their trees and enjoying all the season has to offer, how in the world do we make room for grief and loss. For a casket and death and sorrow?
No, there was nothing merry about that Christmas.
Mom passed away on December 16, 2006, fourteen years ago today. The days immediately following were foggy at best. I don’t remember much. Thankfully I had finished my shopping early, and prepared all I could for Christmas. We planned her services and made necessary decisions. We chose flowers, a casket, and scriptures to be read at her funeral. I was grateful I had my family to carry me along when I couldn’t carry myself.
What I couldn’t prepare for, however, was losing Mom so close to Christmas, my favorite holiday.
Christmas has always been my favorite. I had always felt sorry for those who had lost loved ones during the Christmas season, as I couldn’t imagine the heartache. Well, there I was. This heartache had become my reality.
Our children were 12 and 9 years old at the time. They dearly loved their grandma, and were grieving in their own ways. Maybe more than ever, I wanted to do all I could to bless them and to give them a merry Christmas. My heart’s desire was to make their Christmas special. However, my own grief stood in the way. I couldn’t function, let alone facilitate a merry Christmas.
This was our first Christmas at home by ourselves, ever. We always spent Christmas at Mom and Dad’s. With both of them now gone, I remember sitting on our living room floor on Christmas morning in disbelief, yet trying to put on a happy face. But, I cried through opening presents. I cried through our Christmas dinner. We all cried and mourned and held each other throughout the day.
Experiencing grief and loss at Christmas time is difficult.
Maybe you know this, too. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. There’s one less plate at the dinner table. One less present under the tree. One less smile, laugh, joyful presence. The heartache from the absence of our loved one is real. Grief and loss can be overwhelming and consuming, no matter what time of year it occurs. No doubt, the first Christmas without our loved one can be especially difficult. Life isn’t the same without him or her and we wonder how will we ever make it through?
The thing I kept coming back to that Christmas was my faith. I cried out to God often, and in His grace, He sustained me. I could feel His presence close in those difficult days, and I firmly believe He caused situations and circumstances of blessing to appear in our lives. The promise of Christmas became even more real and special to all of us. And, even though it was the most difficult time in my life thus far, it actually was also one of the most blessed.
When someone is hurting or brokenhearted, the Eternal moves in close and revives him in his pain.Psalm 34:18 VOICE
How does one survive grieving the loss of a loved one during the holidays?
We each experience grief in our own way, in our own time. Therefore, there’s no right or perfect way to walk through it. Sharing from my experience, these are some of the things that helped me.
We started new traditions that very first Christmas in Mom’s absence. They’ve become ones we now enjoy each year.
I let myself be sad. Instead of burying how I felt, I gave myself permission to feel any and all emotions.
I surrounded myself with people who cared about me and who loved me. They allowed me to grieve and even grieved with me.
I drew near to God. As I read through the Psalms during that time, I asked God to infuse hope into my heart. Christmas, and the birth of Jesus, took an entirely new meaning for me that year. I became increasingly grateful for the hope we have in Jesus.
I took care of myself. That may look differently for all of us. Somedays I just allowed myself to “be.”
Friend, if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one this Christmas, I’m so very sorry for your pain. Please know you aren’t alone in this. I am praying God meets you in our grief and loss, and I pray He comforts you and gives you His peace. He’s with you, friend. He’s with you.
God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort!Matthew 5:4 CEV
This was adapted from the original post, Rediscovering Christmas – Grief And The Holidays.
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thanks for this today. I am sorry you lost your mother so close to Christmas. I am trying to get ready for Christmas this year without Mother for the first time. She died Thanksgiving eve. It is hard to put a tree, buy gifts, bake, celebrate in any way. But I am trying to rejoice that my parents are both HOME for Christmas.
Sherrill, the truth that our parents are HOME helps comfort us, doesn’t it? That’s truly what got me through. Knowing I will again see them some day. What a joyous day that will be! But until then, our hearts ache. I’m so sorry about your mom. I have been praying for you and will continue to do so. I’m here if you ever want someone to listen. Much love to you, friend!
I have not lost a loved one at the holidays and I don’t even want to imagine how painful that is! I’m so sorry you know this pain, Julie. Your words mean a lot to me still, as I am grieving the loss of tradition, of being together this holiday. For the first time my children and grandchildren won’t be here with us to open their gifts, decorate cookies, or all the other things I always look forward to doing with them. Your list of things that have helped you in your great loss are things I will take to heart in my temporary one. I so appreciate you always sharing your heart with us!
Cindy, I’m so sorry your family won’t be joining you for Christmas this year. Our hearts grieve these kinds of losses, no matter how big or small they are. I am praying for you in the days to come. May God give you special glimpses of His glory, just for you, this Christmas. May He fill your heart to overflowing, and may He also comfort you in the miracle of the birth of our Savior. You are loved, friend. Thank you for sharing your heart here!
My mom’s death was also in dec, on the 11th. She’d had a series of strokes starting the friday after thanksgiving. she couldn’t move on her own, her sight was affected as well as the ability to swallow. she had tube feedings going which didn’t work well. there was family conflict because we didn’t make a decision to continue the feedings. So we keep an 8 day vigil till she died. Six years later on the anniversary of her death her granddaughter had her great grandson.
Hi Terri! You know of the grief I wrote about. I’m so sorry. What a blessing, though, to have a great grandson born on that very day. God redeems those moments for His glory. I am praying for you this season. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas. Thank you for sharing your heart here!
Thank you for sharing your story. I pray that it touches hearts and provokes healing. I’ve been there and it’s still difficult around the holidays but I am taking it one day at a time. And knowing that God is my healer. I’m not alone…He’s with me through it all. May God bless you and your family.
Carol, I think you’ve got the key here… taking it one day at a time. God Is our Healer, and thankfully He is with us in every thing we go through. Even through grief and loss. Thank you for sharing your heart here. I appreciate it. I pray God blesses you in this season with His presence, His peace, and His provision.