Christmas Grief

December could be a rather gloomy month for my family. My mother passed away Dec. 10 five years ago, my father Dec. 12 a few years earlier, and my grandmother Christmas Eve a few years prior to that, leading my brother to exclaim once that he just wanted to cancel the whole month.

The death of a loved any any time of year can shadow the whole Christmas season as we miss our normal interactions with that loved one, and several years later, though maybe the pangs aren’t quite as sharp, they’re still there, and it’s not abnormal to be caught off guard by a memory or a longing leading to a good crying jag.

When someone is grieving over the holidays, they may not want to participate in some of the “normal” happy pastimes. It’s not that they don’t ever laugh or enjoy gatherings. But as Sherry said yesterday, “I am enjoying the traditional holiday celebrations, and at the same time they move me to tears, sad tears for things that have been lost this year. I am singing the music, and yet I’m tired of the froth of jingling bells and pa-rumpumpum.” I remember almost wishing that we still observed periods of mourning with wearing black or some sign of “Grief in progress” — not to rain on anyone else’s good time, but just to let people know there was woundedness under the surface, and just as physical wounds need tenderness while healing, so do emotional ones. Normally I love baby and bridal showers and make it a point to attend, but for several months after my mom’s death I did not want to go to them. I rejoiced with those who rejoiced…but just did not want to rejoice in quite that way. I first heard the news of my mom’s death during our adult Sunday School Christmas party, and the next year I just did not want to attend. Even this year, when our ladies’ Christmas party was on the anniversary of my mom’s death, I was concerned that at some point during the evening I would have to find the restroom and lock myself in to release some tears (though thankfully that did not happen).

Other events can cast a pall over Christmas: illness, job loss, a family estrangement, etc. One Christmas we were all sick as dogs, and my father-in-law had just had a major health crisis and wanted us to come up from SC to ID to visit. There was just no way we could drag ourselves onto a plane until antibiotics had kicked in a few days later, but we did go, and if I remember correctly, that was the last time any of us except my husband saw him alive, so in retrospect we were glad we went, though it wasn’t the merriest of Christmases. A good friend grieved over “ruining” her family’s Christmas by being in the hospital with a severe kidney infection. Lizzie wrote about visiting her husband in prison for Christmas. Quilly commented yesterday about being homeless one Christmas. Yet both Lizzie and Quilly mentioned reasons for rejoicing in the midst of those circumstances.

If you’re grieving this Christmas, don’t feel guilty if you’re not quite into the “froth” this year.  One quote I shared on a Week In Words post earlier had to do with giving yourself time to heal. On the other hand, there may be times to go through with the holiday festivities for family’s sake — and, truly, those times can help keep you from the doldrums. Sherry shared how making a list of reasons to celebrate Christmas helped. Look for the good things to rejoice in. E-mom left a valuable comment yesterday that we can treasure up the memories of good Christmases to tide us over the not so good ones, and then look forward to better things ahead. And as I said yesterday, remember that the first Christmas was not all about the froth, either, but was messy, lonely, and painful, yet out of it was born the Savior of the world and the hope of mankind. Rejoice in that hope and promise. Draw near to Him who has borne our griefs and carries our sorrows until grief and sorrow are done away forever.

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13 thoughts on “Christmas Grief

  1. Pingback: Christmas Devotional reading « Stray Thoughts

  2. ((Hugs))

    Going through all this mess was the 1st time I ever realized that holidays can be rough.

    I never experienced such a hard time at the holidays and couldn’t really understand how hard it was.

    The extra stuff is what’s hard. The thinking about Christ and his awesome sacrifice is still able to bring peace and joy no matter what we’re dealing with!

    Thanks for the link.

  3. Great post!

    I lost my mother a year ago (11/1/09) and was still in shock during the holidays last year. This year the holiday season is just plain painful at many levels. Like you, though, I am looking for the good things through it all.

    I too wished, during the first year after my mother died, that we could wear black or have some other outward symbol of mourning that would be self-explanatory to the outside world. There were many times that I didn’t want to have to talk or explain my emotions or resulting actions.

  4. I have been reading much about people still grieving greatly years after the loss if a loved one. Sometimes I miss my Gram and wish she were still here, but most often when I think of her it is with joy and gratitude rather than sadness.

    I am certain it is God who helps me see blessings where others see hardships, and feel joy at times when others mourn. You know about my childhood before I went to live with Gram — even though I was 4 & 5 years old, all of those hours I spent locked in that closet were spent with Jesus and I always go directly to him when I am at my weakest points. There is no sadness there.

  5. What an excellent post, Barbara. I wondered if there would be much grief last Christmas when my mom was so unwell. But she pulled through the fog of balancing her medications and is much better.

    Your December is marked with losses and I appreciate your empathy for those who suffer as well.

  6. Be still and know that I Am God.

    Good thoughts! Tho’ I’ve not lost a close relative in Dec. I do remember almost losing my sister when she was in the hospital for 90 days, and thru the Christmas season. I remember as she was going thru the long process of recuperation, she was feeling down because her family had to go thru the holidays experiencing the pain of near loss. From my perspective it helped me to realize the important things and every since then our family Christmases have been more ‘be still’ oriented.
    God bless!

  7. Such a wonderful post, Barbara. I remember some difficult Decembers,wondering how I would ever make it through…..my mother suffered a dibilitating stroke, my sister was in and out of the state hospital struggling so with depression and I was helping care for her three little children because she was a single mom. So thankful that I know the Lord and more importantly, that HE knows me and that I can find the strength and comfort I need and have so much more to share with others in their time of need. Especially at Christmas……

  8. Yes, we have made it a practice to have a thankfulness list when facing tragedies or sadness. It reminds us of the hymn, one of our favorites, “Count Your Many Blessings”!

  9. AMEN! Again, I’ve had this post open all day waiting for a quiet moment to sit down and read it. Once again I’m thankful for the silence of the moment so that I can process the things you’ve shared. This certainly is very applicable to me this year! We’ll be with my mom over the holidays. The last time we were – dad was with us. So I’m excited to be with her and, at the same time, trying to brace myself for potential tears. (LIKELY tears!) Part of me is terrified that I’ll enjoy the day so thoroughly and she’ll hate it. That’s hard to deal with. I’m just praying that this will be a good holiday, a time of healing, and that we will REJOICE in the things that we have to celebrate in. But I’m not going to kid myself into saying it won’t be interesting in spots!

    I’m glad you talked about this today. Thanks!

  10. This was very timely…I know several who have lost parents in recent months….We all miss our loved ones more at this time of year…Honey Bear had an Aunt die last year on Christmas Day in a nursing home and we were informed while having our gathering..we’ll all think of her and others as we celebrate this year…Although we miss them, we rejoice that they have left this earthly life behind.

  11. Pingback: Retrospective Stray Thoughts « Stray Thoughts

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