Christmas Mourning: Will the Holiday Ever Be Beautiful Again?
Each Christmas is the first Christmas for someone – the first Christmas without mom or dad. Or without a husband or wife or child. Or without a grandparent or uncle or best friend.
All the carols, all the joy, all the tinsel. It feels like a dagger to the chest. The loss of who isn’t there is so profound, so consuming. So in the face. Is there any end to this pain?
The contrast is so clear – at Christmas we celebrate God’s gift to us. But we’ve been robbed, for all death is a theft. What will God give to us? What balm does he offer?
Will we ever be happy again? Will Christmas ever be beautiful again?
Sometimes we blame God because, at the very least, He did not prevent the death. We know everyone dies but we want a say-so in how and when, yet we know we do not have a say-so. We know death will come and then we get mad when it does. We know evil lurks in the world to “steal, kill and destroy” and we are surprised when it successfully takes our loved ones. Grief will not be quelled with logic, with factual data about how the world works. We mourn.
The first Christmas without Dad, I decorated my tree in blue lights and tinsel. I tried to create the tree he had said he always wanted. I bought a poinsettia to sit at the church altar with other poinsettias. On Christmas Eve, I went to my mom’s house, a girlfriend came over to comfort us, and we opened gifts. Dad had been the one to pass out all the gifts under our tree every year. Now our family was fractured. My mother was terminally ill, my brother was in prison, and I was heartbroken. I did not know if I could ever be happy again at Christmas.
Three years later was my first Christmas without my mom. It also was my first Christmas as a new bride. I decorated the tree with my parents’ ornaments and a “First Christmas” ornament we got at our wedding. Life was a mixture of sadness and joy.
What comfort can I offer? Christmas is different and it will never be the same, but it can be a good different later on. In the meantime, we must allow grief to do its work between the parties and festivities and carols on the radio. If we embrace what we feel, if we make an appointment with grief every day, it will eventually subside. Grief takes time. We may always grieve – it is a testament to the fact that you loved someone. You cared for someone. And you still do. The connection is not tangible like before, but it is there, and that is significant. My parents left their fingerprints all over my life. I still hear their advice. I still feel their love. What a comfort.
Death opens a door to the world of the spiritual, to a world beyond illness and suffering and the injuries of evil. I have been told this is true for everyone who is left behind. We begin to question life after death. For some this spiritual world is familiar. They talk to God a lot. For others it is new ground. They may choose to walk this way or not, and if not, perhaps it is because they are angry at God.
I was angry. I stuck my fist in the air and yelled at God as tears rolled down my red cheeks. The important thing was I didn’t stop talking to God. I didn’t stop asking him those “why” questions.
God may or may not answer some or all of your questions about your loss. The important thing is He will walk with you if you let Him. While having other people along on your grief journey is very important, God’s shoulders are the best for a good cry. Anytime of the year He makes Christmas in any heart that invites Him. He gives the gift of Himself.
That is the balm he offers. That is what got me through the first Christmas and what gets me through all the other Christmases. I’m happy to report that Christmas can be joyful again.
Is this your first Christmas without someone, or your 21st? What perspective would you add that helps you get past the empty seat at the table?
*This blog post was adapted from a note I published on Facebook in 2012.
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