It was 6 a.m. when the call came. My husband was still asleep so I slipped into the bathroom to answer my phone so as to not disturb him. It was a call I had been expecting, but not on this morning. I turned the light on, shut the door and groggily said “hello”. It was Christmas morning. December 25. A day of celebration. A day of happy family time together. Of presents shared and food. But, it wasn’t a day to celebrate for me. My mom had just died. On Christmas morning.
While others would be waking up and anticipating the joy. My heart was broken. I decided to not tell our kids- teenagers at the time- until after they had opened their gifts and had their Christmas breakfast- a mixture of special sweets and candy, I didn’t want to steal their joy. To take away or diminish their day. Even though my joy was completely gone. I felt empty and helpless. And numb.
Usually I would be writing of the joy of Christmas, the hope found in a relationship with Jesus at this advent of Christmas. But I know that many of you are hurting this Christmas. Your joy is missing. You are going through the motions of celebrating Christmas, but you heart is just not in it. You are in pain. Your loved one is gone. And you miss them terribly. It is difficult to celebrate. The world is moving around you, but you are stuck in the place of grief.
I can tell you. It will get better. The hurt will fade a little. Memories that make you cry now, will make you laugh with joy. If not today then someday. When you have had time to heal. From your loss. You loved this person who is not with you now. So it is okay to miss them. Even when we know, in our minds at least, that they are better now, that they are celebrating Christmas in Heaven. It is still okay to miss them. It is okay to cry.
In my helpless moment on that Christmas now 8 years ago, I found one thing I could do. We packed into our mini van and drove to the beach. On the way out the door, I grabbed the bouquet of flowers off the table. I needed to do something. To not feel helpless. My parents lived several hours away, so I knew I would be making travel plans later. But there was nothing I could do today, on Christmas Day. But I needed to do something, something that I could feel control over. So, my drive to the ocean- about forty -five minutes, felt like the answer.
We rode in silence, my hands firmly gripping the flowers. We weren’t the only ones there. People were running, playing and celebrating. But I wasn’t. I had formed a plan on the drive. I would throw the flowers into the ocean and say a prayer. We each took a flower from the bouquet and tossed them into the water. We watch as the waves took them down the beach and some out into the ocean. It was my way to say goodbye to my mom. It gave me some control over my grief that day.
We also wrote out my mom’s name in the sand with her epitaph. Her dates of living. One person walked past and saw what we had written and softly said, “I’m sorry” That helped me that day. We have been making the same trip every Christmas since.
It has been a way to remember her. Remember the past year and reflect and pray. And that is the one thing I want to offer you today. It is okay to do something to remember your loved one at Christmas. Place a special ornament on your tree, Visit the ocean or another quiet place. Don’t be afraid to slow down from all the busyness of Christmas. Allow yourself some time to grieve. Grief is a journey. It is not a destination. There will be times, even years from now when you will find yourself crying. It is okay.
Pray. Often. Ask God for comfort. Ask God to send friends to comfort us. We need it. We don’t have to grieve alone. God does understand our grief; our pain. He became one of us. He hurt. He wept. But because He became a man, in Jesus, we can have this hope. The hope that we will see our loved one again. Through your tears, may you hold on tightly to this hope. It is the message of Christmas. Death robs us. Jesus comes to make it right. He came to defeat death. It is worth celebrating, even through our tears. God bless you – Nancy