Sunday, December 11, 2016


This time of year Facebook is bursting with cheery images and everyone is wishing each other a "Merry Christmas". But behind closed doors, some of us are suffering. We have lost a loved one, and Christmas will never be the same.

We don't want to dampen your spirits or deny your joy, so we often keep to ourselves, declining invitations, avoiding situations that may become painful.

And that is perfectly okay. For many of us our grief seems magnified over the holidays. We need to give ourselves permission to mourn.

For those of us who have lost children the holidays can be especially sad. I recommend finding creative ways to express our grief. For me it is writing.

CHRISTMAS NEEDLES by Maribeth Ditmars

Those Christmas tree needles poke at my heart,
No child beneath the tree.
Echoes of crinkling paper scrape across my mind,
Nothing to shop for.
Unbaked cookies dry my mouth,
Where tears run by.
A holiday hole no one can fill,
Save the One who cares for him now.
Would that I could sit with you under your celestial tree of life,
Where the angel on the tree is real!
Where hope is my unwrapped gift,
Of a promised place where holidays pale
Beneath the light of eternity.

Whether it is planting a tree, making a quilt, composing a song, running a marathon, creating a work of art, or countless other possibilities I believe that those of us who mourn, if we spend time creating, we will be less likely to be destroyed.

For those of us who grieve, the holidays can also be a poignant reminder that our loved ones are enjoying heaven's riches. This is the whole reason for the season! We have that blessed unwrapped gift to look forward to. We know that we will be reunited with our dear ones in heaven.

Romans 8:18-19 ESV 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Matthew 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

 We can share our faith with other bereaved folks. Can you imagine burying your loved one and believing that's all there is? I don't think I'd be able to get out of bed in the morning. Do you know someone like that? Be an ambassador for the broken. This will help us remember that Jesus defeated death.

Not up to it yet? That's okay too. Maybe you know someone further along in their grief journey. Reach out and let them help you.

Either way, don't burden yourself with expectations. If your old holiday traditions don't work any more, make new ones.

If you know someone who is suffering a loss, the greatest Christmas gift you can give them is the act of listening. Don't compare your losses to their's. Just listen. Let them cry. Let them be grumpy. Let them not show up for your party. Just listen.

There is a wonderful ministry for bereaved parents called Emmaus Ministries. (Click here for info.) They offer retreats. Unlike many other bereavement programs Emmaus caters to your spiritual needs. It's run by the Catholic Franciscans, but it is open to all faiths, and no one will try to convert you. They will gently and lovingly console you. The ministry is named after the story in Luke 24 when Jesus first appears to his followers after his resurrection. They were on their way to the village of Emmaus.

As I trudge my own road to Emmaus, I wish you peace dear readers. We are not always merry, but we have the hope of eternity.

I would love to hear your stories! Post a comment on how you are coping with the holidays.