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.
Linking this post with my friends Holly and Kelly.
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Such a heartbreaking, unavoidable part of being human…you speak beautifully on the experience of grief, Julie. I pray that exactly the right person/people will read your blog this season, that they will be comforted by your willingness to open up and. That your guidance and scriptures will be a light. Thank you.
Meg, thank you for your prayers for this post. Many are hurting this season and I pray they find the hope Jesus extends to us all. I’m glad we can share our experiences as we journey through this life together. May your Christmas be blessed!
Thanks for stepping into this difficult topic. It does seem as if the holidays magnify any grief that’s there, and even the ache that we think we’ve “dealt with” might rear its ugly self with the tones of a certain carol or the sight of a particular ornament. It’s so critical that we stay close to truth in every season of our lives, but maybe even more so in December.
I agree, Michele. It’s sometimes those unexpected things that trigger memories and cause tears… both happy and sad. Praying Jesus infuses His light in us all this season. Much love, friend!
What a hard thing to lose your mom so close to Christmas. My heart goes out to my spiritual mom’s husband this season. She passed away 4 weeks ago, and I’ve thought of him and the rest of the family so much since Thanksgiving.
Yes, Betsy, it was an incredibly hard time in my life, but God saw me through. His strength, comfort, and love met me and lifted me out of my grief over time. I’ll be praying for this family as they grieve this season. I appreciate you friend.
Thank you for your words. You know I know some of the grief you write about. I thought I was doing fine until last week and then the loss of my dad seemed bigger than me. I have also written about how to sustain joy in the midst of grief but the words are ones I need to read over and over again and practice in my own life.
Mary, I’ve thought of you often recently as you work through your own grief. I pray Jesus shines bright spots of joy in your life in the days and weeks to come. May you feel His arm around you and His strength filling you. If you ever need a friend to listen, I’m here. Hugs to you!
Thanks julie❤️I really enjoy reading your stories and scriptures ! May God bless you during this holiday season and always ! Love, Laura Peterson
Hi Laura! Thank you for stopping in and for your words! I appreciate you and them. What a bright spot in my day! May God bless you and your family, too, during this season. Merry Christmas!
It’s so hard when we feel that special someone missing from our most important occasions. It can leave a hole in the holidays. I love your gracious and wise words, Julie – to let yourself feel the emotions and handle them with care. There is no more perfect time than Christmas to pour our heart out to Jesus and let him heal us. Praying for sweet memories this Christmas. Blessings, friend.
Hi Tiffany! Christmas is such a precious time to soak in the truth of Jesus and the hope He gives us. I pray any and all of us who find the Christmas season difficult this year would find and cling to this hope! Thank you for your prayers, friend. It’s always a gift to have you stop over and share. Much love to you!
Fighting to hold back the tears as I read this, Julie! First Christmas with so much loss! Feeling it all and struggling to hold on to joy. Thanks so much for your words of comfort and wisdom.
I’m so sorry you are struggling right now and feeling so much loss. I pray right now for God to fill you with exactly what you need to hang on to Him and to hope. He loves you so much. I will continue to pray for you. Hugging you from afar.
Julie, thank you for sharing from your own grief. I haven’t lost anyone real close to me during the holiday season. I can’t truly imagine how difficult it is to navigate the flood of grief. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I’ m storing it up in my heart.
Hi Jeanne! I’m so glad you haven’t walked in these shoes of grief during the holidays. Praying for you today in this season. Bless you and thank you for coming by!