Christmas is a joyful time of year. However, losing a loved one changes everything. Earlier this year our dear teen-aged grandson passed away. Just when I think I'm coming to grips with the loss of this beloved child, Christmas hits me head on. It hits hardest when I check my Christmas list and prepare gifts for our 20 grandchildren. I always keep last year's list to refer to and remember what I did one Christmas ago.
I see his name, and I realize he won't be part of my list this year. Only 19 grandchildren to give a gift to. Oh, how I want it to be 20 again! I want to see his sweet face and hear the kind words he always gives us when opening his gift from us, "Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa. I love you." He never failed to say this and I will miss it terribly. I feel a hole in my heart that tears are trying to fill up. Then I realize it isn't tears that will fill it up and I catch a glimpse of what will. I know what I must do.
1. Remember why we celebrate Christmas
Christ was born! He lived a perfect life of love for us. Then He died for us. And rose from the tomb that we could live again with Him. Not only with Him but with our dear loved ones who have passed on. He did that for us! Knowing this brings me great comfort and joy.
2. Place a nativity scene where all the family can enjoy it
As you place that tiny baby in the manger, do as a friend of ours said she does. "I hold that holy baby close to my heart and thank Him. Then I place it in the manger." Nativities can remind us of the glorious gift God gave to us.
3. Do an act of service for someone
In fact, do one every day until Christmas. It helps you feel the love that only giving to others can give. It can be as simple as calling someone you think may be lonely and brighten her day. When you hear the words, "Oh, thank you. Your call means so much to me," you will feel a filling of that hole in your heart.
A young mother told us of her desire to do a good deed for someone. She talked to her husband and children about it and asked them to be aware of what they might be able to do. The next day, when they were to work on doing something for someone else she had to have a minor surgery. She had promised the children that they would go out to lunch and talk about it that very day and wanted to keep that promise. Though she didn't feel the best she was determined to not ruin their opportunity to be together and discover a deed they could do for someone.
While they were eating, a stranger came to their table and said, "You have a beautiful family. They are so well behaved. I admire you." Then he quickly left. She said he obviously hadn't seen the children poking at each other. When they went to pay for their meal the server said, "Oh, it's been taken care of. The man you were talking to paid for it." She was so touched that in their quest to do something kind for someone the tables had been turned and the deed was done to them instead. The whole family felt the spirit of Christmas by this gesture of kindness.
4. Cherish the loved ones you still have
Sometimes grief can rob the living of the love they need from you. Think of their needs. Remember, they are mourning, too. Do something that shows you are thinking of them. Maybe make a batch of gingerbread cookies and share them. Even sing a few carols as you deliver them to family and friends. If you have young ones around, let them help. It can create a memory that is heart-healing.
Most of all, put your arms around these dear ones and tell them you love them. Let them see a smile on your face that witnesses how happy you are to have them in your life.
5. Take time to talk about memories of your departed loved one
Let other family members share their memories, too. Some will be funny as you remember a crazy thing that dear one did. Laughing makes everyone feel better. Remembering makes us all feel safe in holding close the love we have for the one who is no longer there. You might want to hang a special ornament on the tree with your loved one's name on it.
6. Look to the future and be comforted that there is a future
In her book Healing After Loss Martha Whitmore Hickman said, "Maybe I can relinquish my 'white knuckle' grip on life, and trust that all will be well."
You can have a joyful Christmas even in the midst of mourning. Along with these 6 ways, praying can help make that happen. Feeling and expressing gratitude to God for having had this precious person in your life can bring a joy all its own.
We wish you a Merry Christmas! And we mean that with all our hearts.