Managing Grief at Christmas

Dad at Christmas 2004--his last one with us

This is a special blog post for me.

My dad, Forace Hale Brewer, died in 2005.

The first Christmas without him was very difficult. I didn’t even want to try to celebrate Christmas that year. But we managed to get through it.

One holiday tradition my extended family had established several
years ago was to hold a mock auction on Christmas Eve.
Before unwrapping gifts at my parents’ home, we used play money
to bid on wrapped gag items worth five dollars or less.
The prizes ranged from everyday household items like a broom
to a poster of a 1970s rock group. It was silly and fun and
we talked about it together for months afterward.

Dad served as auctioneer for our family Christmas auction. His quirky comments about each item to be sold and methods of getting bids made the event extra-fun. Our family of 12 always laughed throughout the evening.

We debated whether to conduct
the auction. In the end we decided to go ahead with it
for the sake of the grandchildren.
There’s no escaping it.
When we experience the loss of someone we loved,
mourning will become part of our lives.
In the book, Death and Dying; Life and Living,
bereavement expert Edwin Schneidman says
mourning is a good reaction.
“The deep capacity to weep for the loss of a loved one
and to continue to treasure the memory of that loss
is one of our noblest human traits.”
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are those that mourn, for they should be comforted.”
The act of crying as a means of expressing my grief
always helps me feel better.
Here are other methods of coping with grief
during the holidays.
1. Accept comfort from family and friends.

A few weeks after the death of my father five years ago, a friend sent me a card of encouragement. “I know Christmas will be difficult for you,” she wrote. “I’m praying God will bless you this holiday season.” Susie’s card reminded me I wasn’t alone.

2. Look after my physical body.

A lack of focus and feeling of lethargy invaded my body after Dad’s death. Doing anything out of the ordinary, such as holiday parties, seemed impossible. By minimizing the number of Christmas events to attend, I rested and made it through that painful holiday time without getting sick or unable to work.

Other ways to care for one’s body during the grieving process include:

  • Taking a walk in a pretty wood, weather permitting
  • Exercising regularly
  • Attending a grief memorial service
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Reading a novel by a loved author
  • Scheduling times to laugh, perhaps watching a funny movie or talking with upbeat friends

3. Accept loss as a means of spiritual growth.

When Susan’s father committed suicide one month
after her college graduation several years ago,
her life that was supposed to be filled with excitement
over new possibilities came to a screeching halt.
She was shocked and devastated. The following December,
Susan sang the line, "Born that man no more may die"
from ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’. Suddenly,
Susan felt the weight of grief lifted from her heart.
“For the first time in my life, I understood what Christmas
was about,” she said. “It wasn't a matter of doing something,
or focusing on what I didn't have, but focusing instead
on what God gave us on Christmas day.”
4. Honor a loved one publicly at Christmas
Author Cathy Shouse purchased a poinsettia to decorate
her church in memory of her mother-in-law.
“Each year her name is printed in the bulletin
along with several others,” said Cathy.
“After Christmas, we take the flowers home and
continue honoring our loved ones by caring for the plants.”
The ways to cope with grief at Christmas are affected
by individual choices.
I can’t celebrate Christmas with my dad this year.
But I can choose to honor him by managing my grief
constructively. I can wallow in it --
or accept that loss is part of life,
as well as a chance for a new beginning.

The End

2 thoughts on “Managing Grief at Christmas

Add yours

  1. So sorry to hear about your loss, but grateful that you can share how you coped with others. I just wrote an article about The Compassionate Friends, a self-help group for bereaved parents. Each year they conduct a worldwide candlelighting ceremony in memory of children. A wave of light encompasses the globe as the time of the ceremony passes through the time zones. It so helps to know you’re not alone with your feelings. Have a blessed Christmas and treasure the memories.

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