Christmas Without: What to do when someone you love is gone.
Sitting with my father-in-law he sadly said, “Another of my friends passed away this week.” This will be a difficult first Christmas without that special loved one in your midst. My own family lost one of our matriarchs this year. What to do with the pain, that empty ache in a heart spot previous filled with the presence of someone precious to you?
That first Christmas, seven years ago, was so difficult for me. Even with all the celebratory lights, there was such darkness in my soul. Her presents wrapped under the tree decorated with 32 years of Christmas memories. My kids numb, emotionally incapacitated myself, questions and anger and tears. So many tears, each tear in honor of how much she was loved and she was greatly loved. Faith shaken, not stirred. The Holiday celebrations had no life, all was perfunctory, going through the motions, doing what was expected. What I wanted was just to run away finding a place where breathing didn’t hurt. If truth be told, I did run away emotionally only to discover I brought all the pain with me.
God, even with your faith shaken, carries you through the Valley of Death. He carried me kicking and screaming like a two-year-old having a tantrum struggling to get free from the captive arms of a loving parent. He carried me for months. He is faithful even when we are faithless. The tears were not divinely wiped from my eyes, but by His grace, heart handicapped, lost, emotionally devastated, He guided me through and guides me still.
I wish I could tell you that everything will be alright. But you know it will never be right again. We who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ have a hope that the end of this life is the beginning of the next and we look forward to a reunion in life eternal. This hope helps, but it is not sufficient in comforting the soul, at least not for me. The memories come unbidden and suddenly I am reminded of who was lost, of what was lost. The tears flow again, this is grief, this is mourning, and this is OK. This is OK. It’s not wise to leave grief undone.
Here’s what I have learned: You can’t allow yourself to be anchored in the past. You’re not meant to be stuck in your grief. Many years ago I asked my grandmother why she did not decorate for Christmas. She said, “It’s just not the same now that the kids are grown.” She chose to hold on to what was and not embrace what could be; holding on made her sad and bitter, failure to embrace made laughter and happiness elusive. Acknowledge that things are no longer the same, shed a tear in memoriam, but don’t permit what was, to keep you from living fully in the now.
There is life to be lived right now. There are new memories to be made today. I have been blessed with the companionship of another incredible woman, she even allowed me to expand my family. No, we’re not pregnant. Suddenly I have a stepfamily and grandkids, and my heart grew a little larger to include them with the ones already abiding. I am blessed with someone/s new and wonderful. Not to enjoy them, not to be present with them would be a crime. Not to laugh with them and love on them and make memories with them would be an insult to the God who gifted me with them. Remember the past, certainly, but let it take over the present, certainly not. Things will never be like the used to be, so make the new things all that they can be now. Create and live in your new normal.
What to do with the pain, that empty ache in a heart spot previous filled with the presence of someone precious to you? I will allow myself to remember, to feel the loss, to shed a tear or two (and even more if it’s your first Christmas) but not allow myself to stay in that empty shadowy place. I will let those emotions of grief pass through me like the breeze through a screen door. Then I will put it aside and enjoy loving others and being loved on. Repeat as necessary. I will make new memories full of laughter and fun and this will be the best Christmas ever.
If you need someone to talk to call me at 714 987 2573 leave a message and I’ll get back with you as soon as I can.