An Uncommon Christmas: Finding Joy When Grief is Heavy

The common cultural expressions and representations of Christmas are everywhere you look. From the tinsel and tidings, carols and cookies and the ribbons and reindeer, the Christmas spirit is certainly in the air. But we wanted to dust off some of the snowflakes and glitter and share some stories that might be easy to miss during this season of all things shiny and sparkly. We invite you to join us for this blog series as we share An Uncommon Christmas.  (Articles: How To Buy A CowFinding Joy When Grief Is HeavyRaising Uncommon KidsUnwrapping ChangeChristmas On The Mission Field)

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Traditions. They are the little rituals passed down between generations that pull families together and make your family unique. Sometimes they happen by accident. Other traditions are purposeful. But all bring about memories, laughter, and unity.

My family has a plethora of traditions. On the 4th of July we gather to eat homemade ice cream and count the Roman candles that explode in the night air. Whenever the electricity goes out, we sit around the table and play the mystery board game, Clue.

Then there’s Christmas. So many traditions: from cutting down a tree to having specific places for everyone to sit when opening presents.

And then in a blink of an eye, life changes. Suddenly, instead of the traditions triggering positive memories, they are a reminder that something is wrong. A reminder that things are not the way they should be.

I remember the first Christmas without my sister. Everywhere I looked was a reminder that she was gone. Every gift purchased reminded me that I had one less to buy. Every meal meant one less plate, fork, and glass would be washed.

Contemporary Christian artist, Mark Schultz explains it so well in his song “Different Kind of Christmas.”

There’s one less place set at the table
One less gift under the tree
And a brand new way to take their place inside of me
I’m unwrapping all these memories
Fighting back the tears
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year

As we examine the idea of an “Uncommon Christmas,” dealing with the weight of grief during the holidays may be “uncommon” to some.  A stark contrast to all the joy and festive merriment of the season, grief is not an emotion displayed in store windows, on television commercials, and filling sale flyers. But, for many it is all too common and it places a weighted blanket on the joyful time. So, how does a family find joy in the holidays when grief is so heavy on their hearts? Living with grief for the past 15 years hasn’t made me an expert but it has taught me ways to bring joy back to the holidays.

1. Acknowledge the Grief and Loss

Acting like everything is fine will only hurt you further. Talk about the person who is missing. Take time to share favorite memories and stories. Whether from death, illness, divorce, or other interrupted expectation, the grief and pain is real, but ignoring your emotions is not helpful.

2. Modify Traditions

Since traditions were such a large part of our holidays, we had to modify them to acknowledge our new normal.   We had to learn to include my sister’s memory in these new traditions. While this was excruciating and took time, it allowed her memory to stay alive during the holidays.

3. Let the Tears Flow When Needed

Tears yield healing. Don’t be ashamed when they quietly flow down your cheeks. And removing yourself from holiday celebrations for a few moments to release an ugly cry is okay too.

4. Be Real with Your Feelings

Let your friends and family know how you are feeling. They will be more compassionate and able to extend grace if they understand the battle taking place in your heart.

5. Find Support

Get to know others who are grieving. Their support can encourage and validate how you are feeling. In writing this article, I reached out to a dear friend who lost her mom to cancer. She shared several of these ideas, and tears, as we worked on this article. Because we understand the emotions we both have, we can affirm the difficulty we each face at holidays.

6. Cry Out of the Lord

Grief hits at unexpected times. Especially in those moments when it feels unbearable, the Lord is there as our Comforter waiting for us to call out to Him.

7. Serve Others

While it can be hard to find the energy, serving others takes the focus off of you and allows you to see that many are hurting. While it might not look the same as your grief, many are suffering from interrupted expectations.

 

Grief is brutal and holidays are just one more reminder of the pain. But I pray that even though you are walking through the valley, you are reminded this Christmas that the Lord is near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18) and that God has promised us that He wipes away all tears. And, very soon “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). This alone brings joy to our holiday.

 

Additional Christmas resources from What’s In The Bible?


Heidi

Heidi Franz is stay-at-home, Jesus-seekin’ momma of four, striving to find joy in the journey of grief. She is the creator of the popular online Preschool Bible Curriculum website ABC Jesus Loves Me and blogs at Our Out-of-Sync Life.

 

 

 

 

 

Your family can learn more about the history of Christmas, and how Santa Claus, Christmas Trees and many of our modern holiday traditions point back to Jesus in Phil Vischer’s Buck Denver Asks… Why Do We Call It Christmas? Now streaming on JellyTelly!

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26 comments
Cheryl Mcleod
Cheryl Mcleod

Only God can comfort you at that time. Many blessings

Wendy Vickers
Wendy Vickers

Thank you!! Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

Michelle Vickers Veitch
Michelle Vickers Veitch

Thank you vey much! Thinking of you and your family as well! Love and hugs to all XXOO MERRY CHRISTMAS

Sandi Bonner Brock
Sandi Bonner Brock

Wendy Vickers...Michelle Vickers Veitch...Erin Vickers Stepp...I thought of you all when I read this. Prayers for all of you and a Merry Christmas.

Michelle Dierkes
Michelle Dierkes

Thank you Krishanan Walbrecht....its true, this Christmas is going to be so different and the grief is heavy on all our hearts.

Joan Capul
Joan Capul

It made me cry \U0001f622... Very helpful article...

Jackie Parker
Jackie Parker

That's me this year nothing has gone right all year did everything right just don't understand

Andrew Adon
Andrew Adon

amen,even we are in the valley of grief we must not be apart from the vine which is the lord Jesus.and we are the branches,apart from him we are nothing...glory to GOD!!

SydneyHarrison
SydneyHarrison

Thank you for this.  Me and my 4 children just lost my husband to suicide the day after Thanksgiving this year. Trying to navigate through our feelings and emotions have been trying.  We all have our moments but we have each other as well. I will say that the "Father in Heaven" has been so gracious with his spirit of comfort.  Some days are better then others, but I find talking about him everyday and keeping his memory alive in our home even though he is not with us helps out a lot.

Leslie Dorr
Leslie Dorr

Thank you for posting this. My Grandpa passed away two days ago and we are facing Christmas without him.

Wendy Park
Wendy Park

Amen. Thank you for posting this. My husband, age 42, died last September and my 3 kids and I have to navigate these things without him.

Paula Hughes
Paula Hughes

I love you, too. And I'm always here. I understand the hurt, but just remember - joy comes in the morning

Tonya Darlene
Tonya Darlene

Thank you for being there for me. I love you

Paula Hughes
Paula Hughes

Yes, it is. It's right on the mark, too. I hope your Christmas is filled with peace and joy.

Shirley Hawkins
Shirley Hawkins

Wish I knew-I would share it with others who are experiencing grief \U0001f494

Tonya Darlene
Tonya Darlene

Paula Hughes, this was just what we were talking about!

Robert Morris
Robert Morris

Indeed. Many people facing Christmas without a loved one for the first time often cannot cope. My friend had a nervous breakdown last Christmas after his wife died in August 2014.