Dealing with grief at Christmas

Dr. David L. Chancey's picture

Amid the joy of Christmas, there is another side to the Christmas story that is often overlooked. Not everyone was thrilled to learn of the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, especially King Herod, who could not stand the thought of anyone competing for his throne.

Feeling threatened, Herod ordered a massacre of all baby boys under age two. Among the sounds of that first Christmas were soldiers’ threats, baby’s cries, and young mothers wailing in desperation as grief collided with the good news of Christmas.

Some years, celebrating Christmas is tough. When my father died in 1993, that Christmas was different. A loved one was missing at the table. There was one less gift to wrap. The family still gathered, and, through tears, we still had Christmas. We had each other, we had our Savior, and we were thankful that my father was in heaven, but the pain was very real.

Sadness and gladness met head on that Christmas, and sadness often won.

This Christmas may be tough for you. This may be the first year you’ve had to face the holidays since losing a loved one. Christmas cheer may be dampened. What do we need to be aware of as we face the season?

Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt of the University of Colorado medical school wrote:

1. Love does not end with death. “Holidays may result in a renewed sense of personal grief, a feeling of loss unlike that experienced in the routine of daily living. All around you the sounds, sights and smells trigger memories of the loved one.”

2. Talk about your grief. “Don’t be afraid to express your feelings of grief. Ignoring your grief won’t make the pain go away and talking about it openly often makes you feel better.”

3. Be tolerant of your physical and psychological limits. “Feelings of loss will probably leave you fatigued. Your energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you.”

4. Eliminate unnecessary stress. “Don’t overextend yourself. Avoid isolating yourself, but be sure to recognize the need to have special time for yourself.” Don’t take on more than you can do and don’t set expectations too high.

5. Mention the name of the person who has died. “If you are able to talk candidly, other people are more likely to recognize your need to remember that special person who was an important part of your life.”

6. Plan ahead. “Decide the family traditions you want to continue, and the new ones you would like to begin following the death of a loved one. Structure your holiday time. This will help you anticipate activities.”

7. Embrace your treasure of memories. “Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. Holidays always make you think about times past. Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with family and friends.” As someone said, “God gave us memories so we might have roses in December.”

8. I’m adding this suggestion. Make spiritual preparation, even when you don’t feel like being spiritual. Focusing on the birth of Jesus can bring comfort because we are reminded that God is with us. Let God minister to you and bring you comfort.

Someone wrote, “My First Christmas in Heaven.”

“I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, reflecting in the snow.

“The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear, For I am spending Christmas with Jesus this year.

“I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear, The sounds of music can’t compare with the choir up here.

“I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring, For it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

“I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart. But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.

“So be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear. And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

“Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do. For I can’t count the blessings or love he has for each of you.

“So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear, Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.”

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Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. this Sunday. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.

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