It was a frigid December day and just five days before Christmas.
Everything was cold including the church pew I sat in with my family. I couldn’t help but marvel at the beautifully decorated sanctuary before me. This was my childhood church and I had attended many a service in it 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.
You’d think with such beauty this would be one of the most special days of Christmas ever. I wish I could say it was. But, 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?
Christmas 2006 wasn’t very merry.
Mom passed away December 16. 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.
Our children were 12 and 9 years old. They dearly loved their grandma, and were grieving in their own way. That Christmas more than ever, I wanted to do all I could to bless them and to give them a merry Christmas. I desired to make their Christmas special. However, my own grief stood in the way. I couldn’t function, let alone facilitate a merry Christmas.
It was our first Christmas at home by ourselves, ever. I sat on our living room floor and cried through opening presents Christmas morning. I cried through our Christmas dinner. We all cried and mourned and held each other throughout the day.
I understand what it’s like to experience grief at Christmastime.
Maybe you do, too. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The heartache of the absence of our loved one is real. It can be overwhelming and consuming, no matter what time of year the loss occurs. 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?
As trite as it may read, I couldn’t have gotten through that pain without my faith. I cried out to God often, and He answered me. I could feel His presence close in those days, and I firmly believe He caused situations and circumstances of blessing to appear in our lives. Even though it was the most difficult time in my life thus far, because of His presence, it was also one of the most blessed.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 NLT
How does one survive grieving the loss of a loved one during the holidays?
I can only share of what I know and of my experience. As we each experience grief in our own way, in our own time, there’s no perfect way to do so. Some things I did:
We started new traditions that very first Christmas in Mom’s absence. They’ve become ones we 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.
As I mentioned earlier, I drew near to God. I read through the Psalms and allowed 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.
God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! Matthew 5:4 CEV
I took care of myself. That may look differently for all of us. I also allowed myself to just “be.”
If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one this Christmas, please know you aren’t alone. Please also know I am praying for God to meet you in your grief and comfort you in your loss. He’s with you, friend. He’s with you.
P.S. 10 years later I still miss Mom, especially at Christmas. Time has eased the pain, along with knowing some day I’ll see her again. I look forward to that day.
If you’d like to catch up on the other posts in this Rediscovering Christmas series, you can do so by clicking here.
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