As I write these words, a precious family is due to arrive at our church facilities in about an hour for a visitation and memorial service. To lose a loved one is painful no matter the time of year, but when it happens so close to Christmas that seems to heighten the pain for years to come. What is described in the famous song as “the most wonderful time of the year” is anything but that for these families who endure grief at Christmastime. When a person passes away in the immediate days before and after Christmas, it’s easy for many friends and family to be “out of pocket” with holiday travel and not able to respond as they normally would. Please allow me to share a few of my personal thoughts about grief during the Christmas season…
1) Remember that life & death do not stop for Christmas. I have seen people pass away on Christmas morning. I have seen families spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day at the bedside of terminal ill family members. The ICU waiting rooms at hospitals are just as crowded as they are the rest of the year.
2) The “firsts” are a particularly difficult part of the grief process. The first Christmas after a person passes away can be unbearable for the family. Probably every one of us knows some family who is dreading Christmas day because it will be the first Christmas without their loved one.
3) Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. Call someone you know is grieving this Christmas. You don’t know what to say? Just tell them you prayed for them today and wanted to give them a call. Write a hand written card. Don’t be afraid to mention the person who has passed away; they are certainly on the heart of the grieving. You do not make their grief worse by mentioning them. Go visit someone who is at the bedside of a dying loved one. Find someone to reach to.
4) Practical help is a great expression of love. For the family who is spending days in the ICU waiting room, gift cards to restaurants near the hospital are tremendously appreciated and a practical blessing. Maybe they are stressed because circumstances have prevented them from doing any Christmas shopping. An hour to just talk over coffee could be the best Christmas gift someone receives.
5) Prayer is powerful. It’s easy to say “we are praying for you” as we go through the line at the funeral home. Actually remembering to pray for them is another matter. Take the time to specifically pray for the grieving this Christmas.