“The children were nestled all snug in their beds…”

“What can we do when the pain of our loss competes with the joy of Jesus’ birth?”

The kids are in bed and can’t wait for Christmas morning. The first ray of sunlight appears to announce the day. The sound of tiny feet follow. It’s Christmas!  Before you take your first sip of coffee, the surge of questions begin: “Did Santa come?” “When can we open our presents?” “What’s for breakfast?”

Maybe you have adult children. You look forward to their arrival, and breathe a sigh of relief when they’re all finally under the same roof after a long day of travel. Ahhh. All is well with the world. You know that feeling. And yes, they still want to know what’s for breakfast!

There’s something wonderful about having family together.

Christmas 2004 comes to mind. Our niece was in the Army. She’d just finished serving a tour in Iraq. Although she was back in the states, we knew she wouldn’t be able to join us for Christmas in the north woods of Wisconsin. Everyone else would be there but her. Wait for it…

Someone whispered in my ear, “Kim will be here for Christmas!” Oh gosh, I could hardly contain myself!

We all screamed with joy when Kim finally walked through the front door. Of course Mike’s Mom cried, which started a chain reaction. Hugs followed. This was “the best Christmas ever!” I thought my heart would burst! I felt that “all was well with the world” feeling again. We were all together. Life was good.

While you may not be able to celebrate with everyone in your family this year, let them know they’ll be missed and tell them you love them.

Christmas traditions that once included friends or family members who have since passed away are especially difficult. It’s hard to turn from our sadness to be able to embrace the joy of what Christmas is all about. I know it’s not easy.

I don’t know about you but after the hustle and bustle of getting the tree up and decorated, buying and wrapping the gifts, the mind has more space to fill. Maybe you can’t bring yourself to hustle or bustle this year. Sadness may creep in as we’re staring straight into the celebratory face of Christmas without those we lost.

What can we do when the pain of our loss competes with the joy of Jesus’ birth?  It feels like an oxymoron to feel them both simultaneously, but we do.

It’s normal to feel as if you’re being pulled in different emotional directions. You need to acknowledge you’re hurting because someone you loved has died. Your tears are proof of that. The pain is proof of that. At the same time, God wants you to know that Jesus’ birth is proof of his love for you.

The heart requires us to feel whatever we’re feeling. The emotions need to come out anyway right? Taking time to cry, pray or read encouraging Bible verses can be cleansing, and may be helpful prior to meeting with family or friends. Just go with it. It’s a human response to our devastating loss.

So much has happened since our ‘miracle’ Christmas. I could have never imagined we would lose our son David six years later, or that Grandma Rozga would pass away on Christmas Eve 2011. They are greatly missed.

I long for the days when David was safe and sound, under the same roof. His smile was contagious. I miss watching him play football in the snow with his brother Daniel, and making the ole standby, Swiss Miss hot chocolate for them after. On Christmas morning he was always the first one up to see what Santa brought.

I swear I can actually feel my heart ache when the memories flood in, but at the same time I know he is safe and nestled close to Jesus in Heaven; the one we celebrate now. He isn’t home, but he is home.

While life is still very hard without him, I have been able to find moments of peace while still living on this side of Heaven.

Oh, and the answer to the question?… I suppose it’s not rocket science but do the best you can. You can be sad and celebrate at the same time. Give yourself permission to do both, and try to engage with others who are hurting as well. Most of all, know that God loves you more than you can imagine. You are not alone in this journey.

Dear Friend,

I hope you’ll take uninterrupted time for yourself to just feel the emotions of missing the person(s) who have died. Don’t ignore what your heart is aching for you to acknowledge, because it can only stay bottled up for so long. This is no guarantee you won’t struggle during your gatherings, but it may lessen it a bit. Life continues to change for all of us. Cherish those in your life now, and accept the bitter with the sweet of the season.  God Bless you and Merry Christmas.

 

 

✅ Christmas 2016

“…Christmas may have seemed impossible to get through, and yet, here you are.”

A dear friend of mine used to encourage me as I guided my heart to do things that; A) I didn’t want to do, B) things I didn’t think I was capable of doing after we lost David, or C) taking actions that would challenge me to be strong, whether in public or private.

My first trip to the grocery store, “Checkmark.” Attempting to focus on reading a book, “Checkmark.” Going in to get my hair cut and colored, “Checkmark.” That first Christmas, “Checkmark.” The first birthday, death anniversary, the list is long.

That was always her response. She didn’t say much else. She didn’t have to. She knew with each new thing I did, or with each old thing I struggled with but muddled through, was an accomplishment for my hurting heart. She knew it was a big deal for me.

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s incredibly difficult and no matter how recent your loss, getting through this Christmas may have seemed impossible to get through, and yet, here you are.

Maybe it went better than you thought it would. Maybe it was harder than you thought it would be. I know it looks different for each of you, but may I just tell you this, “Checkmark.” You got through it! I know it was a huge challenge for you. I know it was hard.

The dinner dishes are done. The presents have been opened. The house is quiet. So now what?

For me I will thank God for getting me through another day, another Christmas. Our seventh without David. This is a checkmark day for me too.

Dear friend,

Christmas 2016, ✅  This is just one of many checkmarks for you as you strive to live out your new normal. I would say that they are absolutely necessary for our healing and moving forward.

I know you can do it! I want to cheer you on, just like my friend Dawn did for me, and still does. Don’t stop laughing. Don’t stop loving. Don’t stop crying out to God.  Continue to guide your heart through your loss. Until next time.

Promises

Psalm 71:20-23         1 Peter 5:6-7, 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Christmas as you grieve

“I just wanted the tug-a-war in my heart to stop.”

Christmas 2010. Our first without David. I’ll never forget it.  Christmas is supposed to be a joyful, happy time, but tell that to my heart. The only thing I wanted I couldn’t have.

Everything that I had done in previous years to prepare for Christmas was something I began to dread.  None of it felt right.  I had no idea how I would get through it all.  It felt like I was being torn between feeling such sadness and yet, knowing I should be focusing on the birth of Jesus, which is why we celebrate Christmas to begin with.  How would I be able to celebrate when I felt so sad? I just wanted the tug-a-war in my heart to stop.

If you’ve experienced loss you may be feeling the same way about Christmas. It can be a sinking feeling of hopelessness, dread, and anger . You try not to let your defenses down because if you do, you fear you could fall into an endless pit of sadness. That’s how I felt back then anyway. I’d been in that pit far too many times, so I avoided thinking about all of it, but in reality there was no way to avoid it. Christmas would come whether David was here or not.

My anticipation of our first Christmas without David brought with it one of the most loving whispers from God I have ever encountered, and I will never forget it; “You can mourn the loss of your son and still celebrate the birth of mine.”… “You can mourn the loss of your son and STILL celebrate the birth of mine.”…  it was okay for me to experience all of these conflicting emotions.

During a time when I was paralyzed with sadness God gave me this promise, an eternal perspective that I desperately needed to claim through John 3:16-17…

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent His Son into the world, not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”

I believe God was simply reminding me that through the pain and sadness I feel because my son is not here, I need to focus on His Son now more than ever… because it is Jesus’ life, His death on the cross and His resurrection that give me the assurance of where David is right now.

I’ve heard this verse so many times before, but here’s the reality of it as I read it now; David is living out this promise from God. I know that his last breath on earth was his first breath in Heaven. I also know that when I die Jesus will be there to greet me…and David will be right behind Him. I-will-see-David-again.

What’s even more amazing? The same Jesus that walks with David right now in Heaven, is the same Jesus I placed my trust in when I was 17. We both share whom we celebrate on Christmas! This has given me tremendous comfort.

Christmas 2010 was spent with family in Wisconsin. We attended Christmas Eve service at a small church in the north woods. It was hard, but as the Pastor shared the Christmas story I listened much more intently. I needed to be reminded, even though I’d heard it many times over the years. While the tears shed that night were tears of anguish, missing my David, they were also tears of joy, celebrating the birth of the One Who was born for me, died for me, and who lives in me.

I know this won’t be easy. It still hurts. Take it minute by minute. Pray and ask God to help you.

If you would like help as you grieve, GriefShare is a wonderful resource. We can’t control when our emotions will take us over during the holidays.  If this happens, excuse yourself and just take time to cry. If possible, drive separately to your family gatherings. This way you can leave early if you need to. Check out their website for more helpful suggestions.

Dear Friend,

This is sad time for a lot of people, but in the midst of your loss there is joy to be found as we celebrate the birth of Christ. It’s okay to experience anguish as you guide your heart to find joy in the Savior’s birth. I found that anguish and joy are intertwined quite often as we search for peace through our loss. I pray you will cling to the hope of Christmas as you grieve. His name is Jesus. I’m still praying for you.  See you next time.

Promises

John 3:16-17       Romans 10:9

I love the simplicity of  Luke 2:9-14 as told by Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”