For some it will fall way short of “Merry” this year but it will still be Christmas nonetheless. The holidays can be excruciating and terrifying for those early in their grief. I definitely know the feeling. No doubt Christmas has changed since Lydia died. The excitement and anticipation was nowhere to be found as the first holiday arrived without her. Taking my son to see Santa proved to be a traumatic experience that I never wanted to do again. Like most parents, proudly snapping pictures of their children grinning with excitement sitting on Santa’s lap, all I could see was the picture of my children together, the last Christmas she was here, while my mind filled with regrets.
Seeing Santa and the coming of Christmas was horrifying and scary. But what does a mother do? She somehow endures the pain, living a facade, while trying to put a smile on her surviving child’s face. Seeing only my son with Santa crumbled me and brought me to my knees. How I hated life, hated myself. The Santa photos used to be my traditional Christmas card, and now, I haven’t sent out a Christmas card since. I became bitter towards those family photo cards, you know, the ones with all the smiles and happy wishes. For the two years when we received them from friends in the mail, after opening the first, one by one they all went straight to the garbage, sight unseen. It became too painful, felt like a slap in the face, bringing to the forefront that pain I had worked so hard to subdue.
Yet, over the years, the pain has become softer. Now I can see how God’s grace has given me a new start. I’ve learned that it’s not about me or my children. It’s about Jesus, the most precious gift of all. You see, only through him, do we have the hope of a better tomorrow and the promise of eternity with our loved ones. The pain of loss, yet so intense, is just a sliver of a moment in time, as our eternal home has no end.
As I approach my 14th Christmas without Lydia, tears are still shed and my heart remains scarred. I miss her with every grain of my being, yet I look forward to experiencing the joy and wonder of the season with my other children, family and friends. As we wake up Christmas morning, I imagine Lydia being here with her siblings, celebrating in delight. Wiping my tears, feeling her physical absence saddens my heart, but knowing that we will be reunited someday gives me hope. For now, we are celebrating together this gift that He has bestowed upon us all. God’s love for us is amazing! For this, I give thanks and for these fragile moments, grief and joy can coincide.
Whether your loss is recent and you are navigating unchartered waters this season, or you lost your loved one years ago, my heart is with you. Let us all remember we are not alone. Let’s give each other grace and kindness, and acknowledge our loved ones, say their names. Most importantly, celebrate Jesus and the gift of eternal life this Christmas. It is definitely something to be Merry about.