Dealing with Loss at Christmas

By Rachel Syens

December 7, 2020

Two years ago in early November, my family lost our beloved grandfather. He was the patriarch of our family and a pillar in our community. We are and always have been a tight knit family. I grew up playing at my grandparents’ house with my cousins, watching my grandpa serve as a basketball scorekeeper, and attending many college football games together. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas after his loss were painful. I felt a hole in my heart, an empty space that couldn’t be filled.

Perhaps you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one this Christmas. Perhaps you’re grieving lost time together, lost in-person contact, lost hugs, lost Christmas gift exchanges, and lost Christmas Eve church services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m experiencing that loss, too. This year is unlike any other as so many of us are experiencing some form of grief around the holidays. What can we do to deal with the feelings of sadness and heartache that stem from loss this Christmas season?

Let yourself grieve

Grief is a normal and natural process. Instead of pushing away our feelings, grieving ensures we experience and process our emotions in a healthy manner. While it may hurt, and you may not find peace right away, it’s important to grieve. Last spring, my therapist walked me through a grief worksheet after I experienced the unexpected loss of a former colleague. This exercise taught me that there’s no “right way” to grieve—we all experience grief in different forms. Let yourself feel. Don’t plaster on a smile this holiday season. Instead, be honest with others about your emotions. Remember that you’re not alone in your grief. Let this verse from Matthew serve as a reminder of God’s love: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Spend time in community with loved ones

Our sadness can intensify when we feel lonely. Sharing in pain and mourning with others can bring ease to your mind and heart. It can also result in unexpected moments of joy and connection. This is more difficult in the era of COVID-19; we are all experiencing the loss of in-person interactions and comfort through physical touch. But thanks to new technologies, we are still able to “be” together and in communion with one another virtually. Take advantage of Zoom this Christmas. Have gifts sent to each other’s homes and open them together on camera. Make and eat a meal over FaceTime. Sing Christmas carols on Skype. If you live in a warm area or can brace the cold weather, meet for a walk (following social distancing and mask guidelines). We will have to be more creative this year in how we spend time together, but perhaps that will lead to even more meaningful conversations.

Share memories and keep traditions alive

Two years ago at Thanksgiving, my grandmother passed out ornaments she had made for each of us in memory of my grandfather. Each Christmas since when we’ve put up our tree, the ornaments have served as a beautiful reminder that my grandpa is still with us and is still an integral part of our family and traditions. My cousins also made pillows for each of us out of my grandpa’s favorite shirts and gave them as Christmas gifts. There are many creative ways like these to memorialize our lost loved ones and in turn create lasting memories for years to come.

My family also shares stories of our favorite Christmases, remembering fondly how my grandpa would meticulously measure and tape each Christmas package and how he loved my mint chocolate chip cookies. This year, my family will virtually gather and share those same stories. We’ll laugh together and lament together. We’ll eat our meals and our Christmas cookies, and we’ll watch the little ones excitedly open their gifts. It will be different, but it will be a way to keep our traditions and memories alive.

Turn to scripture and prayer for comfort

This year’s Christmas season will be marked by loss for many of us. But I encourage you to remember the true meaning of Christmas: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). A savior was sent by God to live among us and to make the ultimate sacrifice for us so that our sins may be forgiven and we may spend eternity with the Lord. Scripture is full of wondrous promises and encouragement from God. God promises to watch over us (Psalm 121:5-8) and strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10). He will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). Let God’s word fill you with hope this Christmas.

Prayer is another source of strength in times of grief and sorrow. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Turn your sadness over to the Lord. Let him hold your troubles, quell your anxieties, and comfort you in your grief. We encourage you to explore the ReFrame Prayer Ministry website for resources and blogs on prayer.

Though this Christmas may feel different, you are not alone. Find solace in digital connections with others, attend church services online, and remember the true meaning of Christmas and God’s unfailing love for you.

Today devotional has gathered a set of fourteen encouraging devotions to reassure you that even during a Blue Christmas, you’re not alone. Subscribe here to receive the free ebook and 14-day series.

About the author — Rachel Syens

Rachel Syens joined ReFrame Ministries with a passion to form meaningful connections in our increasingly digital world. Rachel manages the social media platforms across all ReFrame programs. Prior to joining our team, Rachel worked in public history, tourism, and event coordination. Rachel holds a B.A. from Hope College and an M.A. from Western Michigan University. She enjoys baking, writing, supporting local coffee shops, and traveling as often as possible.

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