Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Christmas Without Them


 It's been almost 20 years now since the death of my first wife, but I still get requests for this piece that I  wrote after my first Christmas without her. Covid-19 has brought some changes, but it's still a tough time. I've been gratified at the continuing ministry of my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death of a SpouseDespite having had multiple novels and novellas published, this work of non-fiction remains the most satisfying among them all. I hope this piece ministers to those who are finding this season especially tough.


                                THE FIRST CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THEM
         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. Consider a local emphasis like Toys for Tots or the Angel Tree--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 and cell phones. The story of Jesus’ birth gives way to reruns of “Frosty, The Snowman.” Gift cards from Best Buy and Wal-Mart 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 if you celebrate it alone, you can remember the true meaning of Christmas.  

6 comments:

Priscilla Bettis said...

Good post. I still have my husband around, and he still has me, but I know that could change at any moment. Luke 2 always makes me happy and tearful at the same time.

Richard Mabry said...

Priscilla, I was married to Cynthia for 40 wonderful years, and God blessed me a second time with the love of a wonderful woman when Kay came along. But we're never guaranteed anything, and we have to cherish what we have every day.

Patricia Bradley said...

Love this post, Richard. Losing my husband of 29 years was difficult, made even more so by the year of firsts. While Christmas was hard that first, Thanksgiving was the hardest since that was his favorite holiday. It's been twenty-three years and it does get easier with time, and when God blesses you with another wonderful person, and I do have wonderful memories. Blessings this Christmas season, Richard!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Patricia. Yes, it does get easier with time, but even twenty years or more later, there are some triggers. Have a great Christmas season.

Anne Payne said...

I haven't lost a spouse but my husband and I lost our oldest daughter eight years ago and much of what you say here is true for us as well. I actually read Luke 2 this morning because I was feeling keenly the loss of her, and not being able to spend Christmas with our other children and grandchildren this year. Your post will encourage many!

Richard Mabry said...

Thank you, Anne. Although I wrote much of this in my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death of a Spouse, I still get inquiries from those who have suffered loss. I appreciate your taking the time to write, and hope you find comfort at this season.