When One is Missing—Celebrating Christmas After Losing a Child

Christmas with  grief. 

Most people don’t like to address such sorrow during a time meant for so much joy. But it’s there, the pain, the ache, the heartbreak. You can’t ignore or tuck away the obvious & fresh absence of that missing loved one, in my case, my son. When someone you love passes away and the holiday season approaches, the ache sometimes intensifies. You aren’t alone in feeling that way. I’ve felt it, I feel it, I live it, breathe it. There’s not a day that I don’t think of Will. He’s my boy, always. His death doesn’t erase his existence, the tremendous impact and imprint his ‘too short’ life has made on my heart. There’s no particular reason that any day should be more difficult than another, but reality is there are days that sting just a bit more. Will’s birthday. My birthday. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Easter. Family pictures. And of course, the dreaded date of his accident.

Throughout the past several years I feel that I’ve learned quite a bit through this unfathomable grief. It’s an unpredictable rollercoaster. But  I’ve grown through it and learned to embrace the pain, as scary and hard as it can be. If I shut myself down to the pain, I’m also robbing myself of the eventual Joy that will resurface. (And it WILL)
Change in life is inevitable, unavoidable. We never want the change to hurt us, rob us of our dreams + plans for our life, but unfortunately we don’t always have control over the change that infiltrates our lives.
I like to think of Mary this time of year, the ‘yes’, or better yet, ‘as You will‘ that she so bravely uttered knowing her life would change drastically, her plans forever altered.  Mary wasn’t too afraid to embrace change no matter what it cost her because she knew God’s Will and Eternal Love were perfect.

Christmas has a tendency to magnify our grief. The empty seat around the table is more palpable on the holidays. The one or (several less) gifts under the tree. For me, the 5 stockings hung above the fire place with only 4 children here to fill them for. The deafening silence in place of Will’s joy-filled contagious laugh. It’s so tough but it also reminds me of what I’m celebrating with my family for in the first place.

A saviors birth.

A gift that can’t be replaced or stolen or bought in a store.


The Hope I have in Christ Jesus.

This year I’ve taken a new approach to this Christmas season. I’ve battled my natural thoughts of noticing what’s missing, and instead reminded myself of all I have to be thankful for. I know if you dig deep, you can do the same. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Christmas isn’t about the perfect decorations or gifts, picture-perfect card, beautifully decorated tree or yummy food served just right. (The media and Pinterest may beg to differ.) It’s honestly not even about having family to gather with. We get so hung up on the material + temporal things that we neglect what exactly it is that we are celebrating. Jesus.
His perfect love for us.

It wasn’t nails that held Him to that cross… It was
L O V E. For you and me.”

So this Christmas, wherever you are in your grief journey, whomever or whatever you may be grieving the loss of, I pray that you, too, could pause and remember the Gift we all have in Christ. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel the pain, but we will experience a joy that is greater.

M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S.

It can still be ‘Merry’ because our Savior lives and nothing we’ve done or lost or suffered changes the fact that He loves us with an unconditional Eternal love.

We all have someOne to celebrate.

(A couple of songs that I find very relatable are ‘Christmas Card’ by Stephen Curtis Chapman & ‘a Different kind of Christmas’ by Mark Schultz).. But be ready for tears.


This article originally appeared at TheWilltoChoose.com.

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Patcine McAnaul
Patcine McAnaul is the mother of five children, four on earth and one in Heaven. She is the founder of #thewilltochoose ministry that supports bereaved parents with funeral costs as well as selling t-shirts with God’s Promises printed on them. Shirts are also available upon request to donate to bereaved parents. Find her on Instagram.