The Christmas season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. However, it can be a painful time as we face the sights and sounds of the holidays while grieving the loss of a loved one. The thought of an empty chair at our holiday table seems to multiply the sorrow that we live with daily. But I do believe that God provides hope for our broken hearts to experience healing.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
If you are struggling this holiday season, give yourself space and time to grieve, especially during the first Christmas without your loved one. I wrote about that in last week’s post (http://wp.me/p8IP9k-9f). Be intentional about slowing down and creating pockets of time to reflect and rest. Be careful not to isolate yourself, but don’t feel like you need to say yes to every party or gathering.
Our culture has certain expectations of what the holidays should look like and what traditions we should honor religiously. For me it was important to set aside some traditions for a time and let some traditions go away completely. In many ways, death brings clarity to our lives. It is the kind of clarity that helps us to see what is important and what we should let go. Before our daughter Nicole went to Heaven, my holiday focus was packing as many traditions and activity in as possible. I filled each moment of the holiday with so much movement, that there was no reflection, rest or time to breath. I was determined to make each Christmas the most meaningful ever. After Nicole passed away, through my grief, I saw what the meaningful moments really were. Being together. Focusing on what the Christmas Story really represents. I had to give myself permission to let go of those traditions that didn’t matter, while creating new traditions that did.
At first it felt like creating new traditions was letting go of part of Nicole, because we had done some of those things all of her life. However, over time I realized that it was healthy to let go of some of the activities I had held on to and it freed me up to honor Nicole’s memory in beautiful new ways. Our focus is just different as our new traditions have mingled with the old ones. There is always a touch of purple intertwined in our Christmas decorations. Purple is Nicole’s color for me. You just need to find what works best for you and your family.
Another healing tradition may be to find a way to serve others. Maybe making a Christmas box for a needy child, singing Christmas Carols at a Convalescent Hospital or serving at your local Rescue Mission. It is hard to get lost in our own grief, when we are serving others. When you look to someone else’s needs, it frees you up to look past your own pain. Proverbs 11:25 says “The man who gives much will have much, and he who helps others will be helped himself’.
I wish I could say that I have done all of this perfectly every year, but I can’t. I still get lost in the layers of my grief and have to remind myself of what is important. I know there is always a pull on me to conform to what our culture deems important and I have to fight that. When I do resist, slow down, try to focus on what is important and look outside myself, I can breathe in the hope of Christmas. True Hope.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.