The holidays are here and I’m praying earnestly for you!
I know that this time of year hurts. I get it. Sadly, many of us get it. We know how difficult the holidays are without your child or spouse. We remember not knowing what to do with the empty chair at the holiday table. And we remember wishing we could dive in that grave and stay there until November and December were over. Or just stay there.
But, you can do this! And many of us are praying you along every step of this unwanted journey.
Filling the Gap Between Us
Prior to the death of my seventeen-year-old son, my family of five was very traditional in the ways we celebrated. After Joseph’s death, we didn’t know we didn’t know how to fill the gap between us. Learning to do that was a process. A really ugly messy process. Forget celebrating the holidays. We were trying to survive them.
We discovered quickly that we each needed something familiar because life had become so unfamiliar. Since they were part of the fabric of our family, we chose to hang on to many of our traditions.
You might need to do that too or you might find that you need to do something entirely different. There is not a right or wrong solution. Your world was turned on its head. Do what you must.
Check-In with Each Family Member
Fifteen years later and on this side of grief, I recommend you check in with each family member and ask how each would like to celebrate your holidays without your loved one. Please compromise and be patient with one another. Each family member’s wishes should be considered and respected. Allow each other an extra measure of grace as you deal with the absence differently.
Our first holidays were horrific. Each of us around the table felt as though we had a limb missing. Joseph’s absence was conspicuous and his participation in our celebrations painfully nonexistent. We knew the date each holiday would arrive but were utterly clueless how to get through November and December without him. As each holiday rolled around, it felt as though the same limb had been yanked off again and again. Healing took intention.
We chose to give thanks and worship as we had always done. Our first efforts were weak at best. We cried more than we smiled. With practice, over the years, thanksgiving healed us a little more.
There is Healing in Thanksgiving
As we gather around the Thanksgiving table, it is our practice to share what we’re thankful for. That first year, each of us mentioned something about Joseph. When my husband prayed before our meal, he again thanked God for our seventeen years with our beautiful boy. He asked God to tell Joseph how much we miss and love him. That became a new tradition.
Eventually, we realized that there were other things to be thankful for as well: color coming back into our world, family and friends who loved us well, jobs, and our eternal hope. We were growing to understand that even in the midst of grief there is always, always something to be thankful for.
Christmas had been our favorite time of year. It still is but on a much different and deeper level. When our three were little Phil would read the Christmas story from the Bible every Christmas Eve. At the insistence of Joseph, our three boys would then pile into one bed like a litter of puppies to watch and fall asleep to It’s a Wonderful Life. After his death, Curt and Wyatt found enormous comfort in carrying on their brother’s tradition.
Our family chose to continue the majority of our Christmas traditions, however difficult those first years. You might need a complete change – and that is okay!
What helped the most, however, was that prior to Joseph’s death every single one of us knew that we were celebrating the fact that Christ entered the world as an offer of hope. We missed Joseph terribly but were happy for him, knowing he was standing face-to-face with Jesus who was born, who willingly died, and then rose again for each of us.
Celebrate with Hope
Indeed we celebrate the holidays but we do so with less fanfare and more hope than ever. Do we have sad moments? Every year! But we savor new memories made, we honor Joseph in ways that comfort each of us, and we cling to the hope we each have in Christ.
‘Praying for you this week and through the end of the year,