I love this time of year – when the Christmas season is truly upon us. When the lights start going up, and the Christmas music is on the radio and the Festive Special is back at Swiss Chalet. I love Christmas!
Yet, as the season comes, I cannot help but think of those for whom it is painful. I think of those who are facing that first Christmas without their loved ones, and my heart goes out to them. I remember what that first Christmas was like for me, after my sister died. I remember that everything that once made me happy at Christmas now made me sad. I remember that the things I looked forward to were suddenly things that I dreaded.
At the time, I didn’t have words to tell people what I was going through. Today, two years later, I feel I can put words to what Leanne needed to say back then. I couldn’t say it for myself then, so I hope I can say it for others now.
If you are grieving this Christmas, I write these words for you. Share them if you wish. Or read them and know that someone understands, and that, in time, you will find your words as well.
And so, on behalf of the grieving at Christmas, I write:
I need to tell you that this Christmas feels different for me. Even though it may have been a while since my loved one died, facing Christmas without them is a new hurdle for me. Facing Christmas feels scary because I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I am afraid of all of the emotions that are going to come. I am afraid of ruining things for others. I’m afraid I won’t get through it.
I know that you care about me and want to help me. First of all, know that there is nothing you can do to make this all better. This season is hard because I am grieving and grief takes time. But there are ways you can support me through this, and most of them are very simple. Here is what I ask of you:
Be patient with me
I will not always be myself. I don’t know when it will happen. A song may come on the radio and you may notice that I have “checked out” as I step back into my memories. I may see an ornament and it will make me cry. I may see you with your mother, or sister, or father, or child, and that may be painful for me. Give me time and patience. I know I won’t be as fun this Christmas. I hope you can understand.
Don’t Be Offended
Don’t be offended if I say “no” to things. I may be ready to go to your party and then feel like I’m just not up for it. It’s not about you – at that moment a happy party is too much of a reminder of my sadness. I may suddenly step out of a room because I need a minute to myself. I may need to leave places early. Please don’t take these things personally.
Be Sensitive to Me
Be aware of what I’m going through. Please don’t send me a Christmas card with a quick message at the end saying “Hope you have an amazing Christmas!” I probably won’t. Please don’t talk to me about all my Christmas plans without acknowledging that I may be having a hard time. Be sensitive that this Christmas is not “just another Christmas” to me. It’s different.
You don’t have to bring it up all the time, but it will mean a lot to me when you acknowledge my loss. It doesn’t have to be a lot. You can send me a note reminding me that you remember. You can tell me when you see me that you are thinking of me and realize that this Christmas might be hard. Pray for me.
Don’t Give Up On Me
I know it’s not always easy being my friend right now. I know living with my pain can be challenging. At Christmas, it may seem easier to avoid me in my grief. Please don’t. I am doing my best, and even though I won’t always be the life of the party, I still need reminders of life, and hope, and love. Keep inviting me to things. Include me. Maybe I won’t feel up to it, but maybe it will be what I need most.
Someday I will figure out what it means to have a “merry” Christmas without my loved one, but this Christmas I don’t know it yet. This Christmas I am grieving, and that is okay. This Christmas I need some space for my grief.
Thank-you for reading, because even reading this message shows that you care.
Your Friend Who is Grieving This Christmas
(For more thoughts on grieving or struggling at Christmas, you can read two of my blog posts from one year ago: “The Second Christmas After ”
“The Trouble With Christmas Joy”http://friesenandfriesen.com/2014/12/18/the-trouble-with-christmas-joy/).
13 commentsAdd Yours
Thanks Leanne for sharing the thoughts of those grieving at Christmas. It helps us better to communicate to those that have a terrible pain in their hearts. I for one found you were spot on.
Thank-you Sandy. I know you understand too well.
Thank you for your post Leanne. I still struggle with Christmas, without my youngest brother Steve and my Mom. Most of all, these two people were my Christmas. Many memories of shaking presents with Steve to guess what they were, making Christmas fun for others and finding just the right present for my Mom, will always be missing pieces in Christmas now.
It must be particularly difficult when not just one but two people you have lost were such a big part of Christmas for you, Susan. Thinking of you and praying for you this Christmas once again, as we know grief never really goes away.
This holiday season will be our first without our oldest son, Rob Woughter, who was 42 when he died. It will be a bit more difficult because we can’t as easily reach out to our daughter, Christina White, who will also be dealing with her grief at this time. Thank you so much for filling in for us and giving her the counsel and encouragement she needs so much. We appreciate your ministry and pray that God grants you peace and comfort in the loss of your sister.
I will be thinking of all your family during this time. May you there also be glimpses of comfort and hope for you during this difficult season. I continue to pray for all of you.
This is the first Christmas after the unexpected loss of my mother, who was also my best friend. The closer the ‘big day’ gets, the more checked out I get. The more short tempered I am. The more depressed I get. I can’t thank you enough for this post. I found it on Facebook via a shared post. I plan on sharing it as well. These are all the things I wanted to say but didn’t really know how. I hope you find a way to like the little things about Christmas again. It’s so hard. Unbearable some times. But there’s always the hope that things might get easier. Lights may eventually start getting brighter. I wish you peace and Love this season, and please know how much your words are helping others. *hugs*
I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your mom. I well remember those days leading up to Christmas that first Christmas after my sister died and the growing sense of dread that came with it. It feels impossible, but you will get through it. And this third Christmas since the death, I can say it is much better. There are definitely still hard moments and things that trigger my emotions, but I don’t dread everything and I can say that I even enjoy Christmas again. I hope this will also be true of you. I’m glad that you found my words helpful. Bless you!
I am experiencing the loss of a relationship. My husband and I were together for 23 years and he decided that he was not happy and recently left our marriage. He is still active and involved with our two children, however, I am having a very difficult time with it. This Christmas is proving to be extremely difficult for me but I have to put on a brave face for my children.
Grief can come in so many ways, and it is very normal to feel grief at the end of a relationship like this one. I can only imagine how hard this Christmas must be for you. Remember that it is okay to grieve this loss. I pray you can find hope in the midst of the hurting.
Thank you Leanne. I am reading your post and the tears are flowing. I am feeling a big sense of dread as Christmas approaches. Ten months ago, my sister, who is just a year older than I, had a massive stroke and is completely debilitated. I feel we have lost her, yet she lies there in a bed with her mind tormented about all sorts of things that aren’t real. As much as I love Christmas with all the traditions, excitement, and happy times, I know that I will have to expend extra energy to make it fun for the family , you’ve touched my heart with your writing— you have ever since I’ve known you.
Thank you Leanne? I have had so many Losses?, First my Twin, then my dad and mom and this past January my husband, I appreciate what you wrote, this is exactly what I feel, So I shared it to my wall in hopes people understand how I feel.. Thank you
Christmas must be so very hard for you! I pray that you find people who are supportive and understand.