Grief at Christmas—Enduring the Holidays After Loss

The Christmas season is upon us!  The music! The excitement!  The decorations! The celebration of our Lord and Savior!  This is the time of year for reflection, forgiveness, worship, and joyful time with family and friends. 

But for those of us who have lost our moms, the Christmas season can intensify emotions of sadness and feelings of loneliness.  New waves of grief that had subsided can become fierce and overwhelming again. 

Grief at Christmas

This is the 15th Christmas I have spent without my mom. We haven’t decorated, shopped, planned, celebrated, laughed, baked, or traveled together in over 15 years.  I never got to see her celebrate Christmas morning with my daughters in matching jammies.  They never got to put baby Jesus in the manger together and hear her tell them about His birth.

I want to be able to say that Christmas without her has gotten easier.  In some ways it has, but with so many vivid memories of her around this time of year,  those waves of grief can come in and knock me off of my feet without any notice; especially this time of year.

I knew that my 27th Christmas with her would probably be our last together and she was already so sick with cancer.  I also knew that the first Christmas without her would be hard; almost unbearable.   That year my family and I booked a trip to Mexico; no tree, no traditions, no familiarity.  It was still hard.

I will always carry the scars of my broken heart, but my scars are a reminder that God is healing me.

My 14th Christmas without her I was finally able to get her Christmas china set out of storage.   After my mom died, I didn’t want the dishes because of the memories that went with them.   This year, I was so glad to have those dishes.  I loved unwrapping each piece, remembering my mom and being able to bring a part of her to my family table.  

So, how do we encourage those we love who have lost their mom?  Whether it’s their first, 15th, or 50th holiday season, when there’s a piece missing, time doesn’t discriminate. 

Here are some simple ways to spread some encouragement to avoid grief at Christmas:

1. Take The Picture

Mommas are typically the photographers in the family and we typically love to take pictures of what matters the most to us…our kids and our families.  After my mom died, I noticed that there were less and less pictures with me in them.  And while I don’t love to have my picture taken, I want my girls to have the memory of our family all together.  So offer to take that family photo in front of the Christmas tree.

2. “Tell Me About Your Mom”

It can feel awkward and unfamiliar to ask about someone’s mom when she is no longer on earth.  Sometimes it can be too painful to talk about, but oftentimes, talking about our mommas can also bring comfort and a sense of closeness.  Don’t be afraid to ask your friend what her mom’s name was or about a favorite holiday tradition they shared. 

I am like my mom in a lot of ways and while I don’t want to talk about her all of the time, I feel closer to her when I can share stories about her.  (Also, when my friends hear about my mom, it explains a lot about why I am the way I am…so there’s that!)

3. Keep Her In Your Prayers

Prayer has the power to heal when words and acts of kindness fall short.  Psalm 107:28-30 tells us that your prayers can calm your friend’s storm of distress and bring her to a calm haven in her heart.  

Yesterday, I cried when I got my mom’s nativity set out of storage and set it out for the first time since she left, but I was so happy to watch my daughters put the baby Jesus in the manger. The emotions come in waves, but God continues to answer prayers and heal my heart and He can use you to encourage and heal your loved one too.

Leslie Colburn
Leslie Colburn
Leslie Colburn is a mom and a writer with one goal: to help all of God’s children know their worth in Jesus. Her newest book, Y-O-U, is the next installment of the Cross My Heart Books series; spreading encouragement and the message that re-gifting love is what matters the most.

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