This is the fifth year we’ll be celebrating Christmas without my mom.
I wish I could say it gets easier.
This year I’m tempted to go back to Mom’s church for the Christmas Eve service we attended every single year without fail. But I know I’ll never make it through without gobs of snotty tissues and red, swollen eyes, so why bother?
Let me start by saying that if there’s one thing I’ve learned about grief, it’s that it’s different for everyone. Shucks, it’s not only different from person to person, but it can be different for the same person from day to day or even hour to hour! It’s completely unpredictable.
So maybe you can relate to my experience, or maybe you’ve responded completely differently – and that’s totally fine. My reaction has bent and morphed from year to year.
But that first year, I surprised myself. After 30 years doing the same thing to celebrate the holidays, after my mom died, I didn’t want any of it. Not the music, not the lights, not the cookies. Nothing.
I completely recoiled at the thought of “celebrating” these traditions without my mom. I couldn’t bear it. It hurt too much.
My kids complained. They wanted to decorate a tree. They wanted to bake cookies. They wanted to sing Silent Night. Of course they missed their Grandma, but they didn’t realize the strong emotional tie that she had to each of those activities for me. They couldn’t understand why something like my grief would or could or should “ruin” their Christmas.
So we compromised. With some traditions that year, I simply said, “I can’t.” With others, I agreed to go through the motions, but they didn’t transpire without silent sobs and gobs of snotty, tear-stained tissues.
You rain down in rhythmic drops, a constant tapping on the tin roof of my empty heart, and you refuse to be ignored. You’re a leaking faucet, a steady drip into an open wound.
Yet I need you to water my soul. To make me grow. To survive. You stretch me and draw me tall toward the sun; without you I would shrivel up and wither away.
Even in stages of evaporation, you don’t disappear entirely, but wait to be stored up in the clouds until a storm is ready to thunder and pelt you down in stinging drops. Sometimes you’re a pounding downpour, and I want to run from you — to escape to dry shelter and not be touched by you. Other times you’re the gentle patter that lulls me to sleep at night, soothing and almost unnoticed.
At times you stand still, a puddle at my feet — not threatening, but leaving me soggy and uncomfortable.
You’re the morning dew, sparkling in the dawn of a new day, the residue of last night’s tears.
Like the ocean, you pull in strong currents, and your depths are unknown. You come in waves, rising with lofty swells that crash down incessantly. I ride in your crest until you break and I wash onto the shore, empty and defeated.
In winter you form stoic icebergs that line the shore, masses of frozen mounds that keep well-intentioned visitors at bay, too fearful to set foot on your unpredictable foundation.
You’re a powerful waterfall, charging over the precipice and crashing loud into the abyss, leaving a cold mist to rise up in a foggy haze. The melted mountain snow run-off, trickling down the rivulets of rock, causing others to stop and look. You’re a flowing river, free to run its course in unchartered territory not designed by me.
I’m carried along by you, and I am undone.
But as your Master fixed limits for the sea which He created and “set its doors and bars in place,” so He limits you. As He says to the waters He formed, so it is with you: “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt.”
As much as you threaten to flood and drown, you will not overcome. For there is One who gives living water — “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And you, Grief, will dry up and be gone forevermore.
The holidays can be a particularly vulnerable time for people who are well acquainted with grief.
Do you know someone whose heart may be aching this season? Consider gifting them with a copy of this book.
Thanks for joining us today! Looking forward to reading your letters!
I realise this post has the potential to spark a measure of controversy, though that’s certainly not my intention.
Here are some questions for you:
What makes Christians different from those who don’t love Jesus?
What do they have that non-Christians don’t possess?
What marks them and sets them apart from the rest of mankind?
You might be thinking of the word, “forgiveness.” Amen, and thank God for it.
Forgiveness is a huge aspect that sets Christians apart from those who are not.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is another major component we shouldn’t ignore.
There’s another significant difference that always strikes me whenever a non-Christian person has died:
It’s the element of hope. Its absence is deafening in a funeral home.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul writes to the believers, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (emphasis mine).
“The rest of mankind, who have no hope.”
Isn’t that just so sad?
Doesn’t it make you want to reach out and offer hope to those who don’t have it?
Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
As believers in Christ’s death and resurrection, we have confidence. We have assurance. We have hope.
Our community suffered a great loss this week. An 18-year-old 2015 graduate was killed in a car crash early Sunday morning. Just like that, she was gone.
She woke up and probably thought it was going to be a normal day, just like any other. Instead, she met her Maker. By God’s grace, she trusted Christ as her Savior and is now enjoying eternity in His presence.
A few days ago, my almost ten-year-old daughter asked if she could have Pop Tarts for her upcoming birthday breakfast. Her 8-year-old brother quickly pointed out, “You might not even be here then.”
It might sound morbid, but my son understands that tomorrow is not guaranteed. At least, not in this life.
But for those who have put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ, there IS the promise of a better tomorrow — a tomorrow with “no more death or mourning or crying or pain,” for all who believe (Revelation 21:4).
Until then, it’s easy to fear what lies ahead beyond the horizon, beyond what our fallible eyes can see.
I wrote the following post several weeks ago, but apparently the Lord had me save it for such a time as this.
In light of this week’s events, I’m also offering my e-book, Letters to Grief, FREE from Monday to Friday this week (6/29-7/3) on Amazon Kindle.