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.