(Note: The following article was originally published in the “Record-Herald” on Dec. 19, 2008—two years after my mother’s passing, and again, in December, 2015. However, it seems some of my friends and acquaintances have recently experienced the loss of their dear loved ones and will be facing a difficult holiday season and first year without them. Therefore, I am reprinting it at this time. I hope it is a blessing and a comfort to you during this difficult time.—Teresa A. Ford)
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white.” (from “White Christmas,” by Irving Berlin)
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! May your days be merry and bright! At this time of year we exchange these holiday sentiments to each other because we sincerely wish that our friends, loved ones, and acquaintances experience the special joys that this holiday season brings.
However, what about those among us who have recently suffered the loss of a loved one? To those of you who have recently suffered such a loss, my heart goes out to you. You are not alone. Neither are you forgotten. Truly, you are in my heart and prayers, and this column is for you.
This year, in particular, many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced the loss of their dear loved ones. Speaking from my own personal experience, I can tell you that the holidays will never be the same. In fact, your life has been forever changed. During this difficult time, we experience many emotions, including sadness, loss, grief, and emotional pain. These emotions seem to be overwhelming, especially at this time of year when good will and happiness are being expressed. However, when our loved one is no longer here to share these special joys with us, there is seemingly an emptiness in our lives. I call the first year without the loved one a “year of firsts.” These “firsts” include first Christmas, your first birthday without them, their first birthday since passing away, first Mother’s day or Father’s day, first anniversary, etc. These special days can be very painful.
My mother passed away two years ago (now 15 years ago), and my first year without her was one of the most emotionally difficult years of my life—especially during the holiday season. I missed purchasing Christmas gifts for her, especially the poinsettia that I would get for her every Christmas. It was such a joy to me to see her eyes light up as she enjoyed this particular flower. I missed taking her around town to see the decorations as well as her telling me how to decorate our own Christmas tree. I missed taking her to holiday programs or watching the TV programs with her, as well as singing the carols with her.
What do you do when the sense of pain and loss seems overwhelming? Friends and family, and other caring people are a wonderful support group. Allow them to minister to you and help you during this difficult time. Also, I cried out to the Lord. This pain and loss caused me to grow closer to Him and He became more real to me than ever before. During those difficult moments when no one else is there, He is always there and He will comfort you if you reach out to Him. Truly, I have found Him to be the God of all comfort and really do not understand how anyone can go through such a difficulty without Him. 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 says, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, Who comforteth us…that we may be able to comfort them…by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
As earlier mentioned, I have personally experienced His comfort and can share it with you. Also, even in your pain, reach out to others who are hurting. As you do this, the healing process will take place in your own heart—which is another reason why I am writing this letter to you—so that this healing process may continue in my own heart. This is not an overnight, “quick-fix” job, but the healing does take place gradually. Allow God to heal your heart and life in His way and His time, for as long as it takes.
It is very difficult to care for your loved one when you see them getting progressively worse, and they are slipping away into eternity. One thing that I learned though this painful process is they may have been our loved one—mother, father, child, spouse, friend. We loved them and cared for them. However, they belonged to the Lord before they belonged to us. Since He has their lives, as well as our lives and times in His hands, we must commit them to His loving hands and let God be God. For me, this was a most difficult lesson to learn.
If you loved them and cared for them to the best of your ability, you can be comforted, knowing that you have no regrets. If you know that your loved one is with the Lord, you are most blessed and have much for which to be thankful.
Also, if you have good, happy memories of them, then you are blessed. On the other hand, if you have unpleasant memories or experienced pain with your loved one, forgive the past, leave it with the Lord and move on with your life in His strength, comfort, and healing.
Because of the loving, caring support we receive from family and friends and the personal comfort and promises of God, then our days can be “merry and bright” and all our Christmases can be white. May God richly bless you. MERRY CHRISTMAS!