No matter how long our loved ones have been gone it seems we especially miss them at Christmas time. There are triggers everywhere which bring back memories to us of happier times, brighter times. A part of us longs for those happier days when we had those special people with this. And, oh, how we would so love to have them back with us, even for just an hour, to celebrate part of Christmas with us.
But what about those who lose their loved ones during the season? A friend of mine, whose story is told in my book, “Memories in a Daughter’s Heart”, lost her mother to a drunk driver just two days before Christmas. My friend was a newly married young woman looking forward to the best Christmas of her life. Instead, it became the worst.
Just a year ago during this holiday season two friends of ours suddenly lost their mothers within a 24 hour period. One of these friends’ mothers had only been sick for a few weeks. It appeared she had a stroke, was briefly hospitalized, and sent home. She had appeared to be somewhat recovering, and then took a turn for the worst, not being able to walk, feed herself, or see out of one eye.
Her condition deteriorated, and she was sent back to the hospital, unable to eat or drink without aspirating food into her lungs. Our friend and his wife, along with his father, went through a grueling week of stress and concern for his mother. Because she was unable to eat or drink, and her heart was quickly weakening, the decision was made to take her back to her own home with hospice care. She had only been at home for two days when she went home to be with the Lord. This woman and her husband had been married for 63 years, and the entire time she was in the hospital, her husband would not leave her side.
Our other friend had spent a great Saturday with her mother. They went shopping and were most likely finalizing family Christmas plans, and probably making arrangements for baking Christmas cookies for the annual church cookie exchange. When my friend left her mother that night she was fine. I can imagine in my mind them telling each other good night, and saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
But when my friend went to pick up her mother to take her to church the next morning, her mother was already gone. She had left sometime during the night to be with the Lord and her beloved husband of many years who had passed away several months before.
I can not in any way imagine how my friend felt when she knocked on the door, got no answer, and let herself in, calling out “Mom? I’m here. Are you ready?” And then finding her. I’m sure it was a total and devastating shock; something she will never, ever be able to put out of her mind. I cannot imagine the despair and helplessness she felt. How do you confront something like that?
And just this year, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, another good friend very unexpectedly lost her mother. She had talked to her on the phone one night, planned their weekend together, said their normal “good night, I love you’s”, and two days later, after my friend, as well as her mother’s friends, had been unable to reach her mother, Catherine received that dreaded phone call…her mom had been found unresponsive in her bedroom. She’d most likely passed away a few hours after Catherine had last told her “I love you.” Her mom hadn’t been sick; she hadn’t complained of any strange pains or ailments. We have no idea what caused her sudden demise, which left Catherine, her brother, and their families to try and put together the pieces and recover from a loss almost more devastating than losing their father several years ago had been. Because his death had been anticipated; their mother’s had not. None of them had in any way been prepared for this sudden event. But then again, are we every truly, TRULY prepared?
All of these families are very strong in their faith. But in these circumstances, no matter how strong, our spirits are shaken to the very core of our being, and as strong as our faith is, we scream out “WHY??” to the Lord. And during this Christmas season…”Why now???”
I have no answers. No one here does. Platitudes and statements like “It was her time”, “God wanted another angel”, “She’s in a better place”, “She’s with her husband and happy again” just don’t do it. We know all of that in our heads. But our hearts are shattered and crushed. Our spirits are destroyed. We don’t know how we’re going to be able to go on, and especially how we can get through this Christmas season. Because we aren’t happy or joyous. We’re miserable, devastated, and just don’t know how we’re going to get through the next day, let alone Christmas.
At times it seems we hear of more tragedies, more unexpected deaths, during the Christmas season than at other times. Or perhaps we just notice it more, because during this special season of joy and love, we want to dwell on the happiness, the joy and magic of the season, and only see the beauty and goodness that is supposed to be all around us. But when you’re hurting, when someone you dearly love is no longer here to help celebrate this special time with you, the tragedy and the grief are magnified, and finding the Merry in Christmas is almost impossible. You just want it to be over.
I cannot give you answers to make it better, because, as I said previously, I have none.
I can tell you that you will all survive. You will mourn. You will cry more tears than you realized you had inside of you. You will question God. Scream at Him. Perhaps even tell Him you don’t believe He’s even there any more. And He’s not surprised at any of these reactions. I had many of those same reactions. But He’s heard them all before. From lots of us. And He will continue to hear these cries from others in similar circumstances until we all join Him in eternity. Where we will have answers to all of our questions before we even ask them.
For my friends, I can only offer our love, our prayers, our shoulders to cry on, our arms to hug them, and our ears and hearts to listen as they pour out their grief.
For anyone who has lost a loved one at Christmas, it’s a grief that’s magnified even more because of the season. Everyone is supposed to be happy. But you’re not, and with good reason. Let me tell you, it’s ok to be sad, and it’s ok to cry; you’re not the only one in this situation. You may think you will never enjoy another Christmas, but you will. Time is a great healer, and with the Lord’s help, you will get through this.
You will make new traditions, and remembrances to honor your loved one. There will be new memories. It will be different, and uncomfortable, for the first year especially, and for several years to come. But the reason for the Christmas season will always remain the same. And because of that, we will one day be re-united with our loved ones for all of eternity. And eternity is so much longer than our stay here on earth.