Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Christmas:Sometimes It's Tough

Thanksgiving is over, and all of a sudden Christmas is just a few days away! I had intended to devote this blog post to some of our own Christmas preparations, but the recent death of a dear friend combined with the unexpected passing of an author friend, made me realize that perhaps there are others out there who would benefit from reading this short article that I originally wrote for our hometown newspaper after the death of my first wife.


    After the death of a loved one, every holiday that follows carries its own load of renewed grief, but there’s little doubt that Christmas—especially that first Christmas without him or her—is the loneliest time of the year.

    After the death of my wife, Cynthia, I was determined to keep things as “normal” as possible for that first Christmas. Since this was an impossible goal, the stress and depression I felt were simply multiplied by my efforts. My initial attempt to prepare the Christmas meal for my family was a disaster, yet I found myself terribly saddened by the sight of my daughter and daughters-in-law in the kitchen doing what Cynthia used to do. Putting the angel on the top of the tree, a job that had always been hers, brought more tears. It just wasn’t right—and it wasn’t ever going to be again.

    Looking back now, I know that the sooner the grieving family can establish a “new normal,” the better things will be. Change the menu of the traditional meal. Get together at a different home. Introduce variety. Don’t strive for the impossible task of recreating Christmases past, but instead take comfort in the eternal meaning of the season.

    The first Christmas will involve tears, but that’s an important part of recovery. Don’t avoid mentioning the loved one you’ve lost. Instead, talk about them freely. Share the good memories. And if you find yourself laughing, consider those smiles a cherished legacy of the person whom you miss so very much.

    For most of us, grieving turns our focus inward. We grieve for ourselves, for what might have been, for what we once had that has been taken from us. The Christmas season offers an opportunity to direct our efforts outward. During this season for giving, do something for others. Make a memorial gift in memory of your loved one to your local Food Bank, the Salvation Army, or your favorite charity. Involve yourself in a project through your church. Take a name from an Angel Tree at one of the malls and shop for a child whose smile you may not see but which will warm your heart nevertheless.

    When you’re grieving, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by Christmas, especially the modern version. The echoes of angel voices are drowned out by music from iPods. The story of Jesus’ birth gives way to reruns of “Frosty, The Snowman.” Gift cards from Best Buy and WalMart replace the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If you find the season getting you down, the burden of your loss too great to bear, read once more the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2. Even when you celebrate it alone, this is the true meaning of Christmas.

If you have a friend who has suffered the recent loss of a spouse or loved one, I'll suggest the book I wrote after Cynthia's death. The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse was published over seven years ago, and continues to minister to thousands who have suffered the same loss as I did. And if you'd like to personalize it for your friend, drop me an email using the tab in the right margin, include your address, and I'll send a signed bookplate to put inside it.

Meanwhile, as we approach this season, let's not forget the greatest gift of all, one that God provided for us, not wrapped with a bow but rather clad in human flesh. 

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Good thoughts. Thank you...