The Most Difficult Time of the Year--Celebrating Christmas in a Season of Loss

Celebrating Christmas in a Season of Loss

In a year that has seen at least 23 school shootings, parental grief lies very near the surface of our society. At the same distressing time, a stunning 1 in 4 women has had an abortion by age 45, creating a quieter, but even greater undercurrent of grief — one mostly unshared and unacknowledged. Then there are the countless precious children who have died too soon a thousand other ways.

How many parents that you know are facing another Christmas without their son or daughter?

Entering into the mourning of friends (or even total strangers), we rarely know how to comfort them — how to do or say something that puts God’s mercy on display, while trumpeting the joy of our blessed hope, all with appropriate sensitivity. We desperately want to avoid a candy-coated misuse of Romans 8:28 that forces tragedy into some sort of untainted blessing without acknowledging the lacerating loss. The tension renders us wordless.

But where we are wordless, the word of God is not. Woven into the account of the Messiah’s birth is a story of childhood death, a blunt and brutal story that brings parental grief right into the “most wonderful time of year.”

Capture

I’m teaming up with Desiring God today in sharing this call to a compassionate observance of Holy Innocents Day during this challenging season for parents (and others) who grieve. Click here to join me over there for the rest of the article.

May Joy and Peace Be Yours,

Michele Morin

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

55 thoughts on “Celebrating Christmas in a Season of Loss”

  1. I didn’t know there was a celebration of Holy Innocents Day! (There’s so much I don’t know!)

    I find this article timely because although I don’t know many who have lost sons or daughters, I do know a number of families that experience grief at Christmastime. I always think it is so sad when death comes during the holidays; but the reality is, the empty place at the table is always noticed whether the death took place during holidays, some months before … or ever.

    One thing I’ve been thinking lately is spelled out in your sentence: “The day after the funeral is not a finish line, but a starting line.” My thought has been, everyone always ministers during the week of the death (or at least I thought they did!) but maybe visits, cards and memorials are also appreciated down the road. Grief is a path that takes much time to travel.

    As always, good thoughts, Michele! (I commented here because I didn’t see a place to do so at Desiring God.)

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      1. It’s not a widely observed holiday, nor is it a passage of Scripture that we go to very often. It does, however, give us a different slant and texture for our reading of Christmas.

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  2. I think so many of us get stuck on wanting to say “the right thing,” but it helps to know there really is no one right thing to say that will heal the hurt that only God can heal. But if we listen and are walking with Him, He can work through us. Both of my parents died in December (as well as my grandmother, a college friend’s husband, and our dog, but in different years). Just expressions of prayer and sympathy helped, but one friend shared a verse on a note card that especially ministered to my heart after my mom’s death.

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    1. These are good thoughts, Barbara, and I can remember thinking (a long long time ago!) that words were the answer–that if I could just find the right thing to say I could really help.
      I took this topic on with fear and trembling, but the text seemed to demand it, so here it is. Thanks for reading and adding your good thoughts as well.

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  3. Dear Michele … this is tenderly instructive and sensitively spoken.

    I have never felt grief like I did when my little grandson died. To watch my family suffer such great loss at his funeral almost did me in. The endless months that followed were numbing and raw.

    Thank you for shedding a guiding light into the dark and winding road of mourning.

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  4. Such a thoughtful article, Michele. I have not experienced the loss of a child, except through miscarriage, but I know people who have. I agree the best things we can do are to pray, to listen, to keep showing up and not put a deadline on grief, because it never fully goes away. But we can be comforted by our loving Savior. Blessings to you! xo I’m your neighbor at #HeartEncouragement.

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  5. What a beautiful and sensitive article, Michele. You were wise to read Nancy Guthrie’s book. I think most people (myself included) don’t know what to say or do for someone who is grieving. The advice you give is invaluable. Thank you so much!

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    1. There’s nothing like real life experience and a season of suffering to sow wisdom into a life. It’s not something I would choose, and I’m sure Nancy didn’t volunteer for the role, and yet she has lived it so graciously.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My closest friend of 40 years passed away suddenly two months ago. I sorely miss her, and that loss is punctuated as I prepare for our annual Christmas dinner with the girls. She is such a big part of that. Yet I also feel so blessed that I had a chance to know and love her and to be loved by her. She shaped who I am and, therefore, lives on in me in a very real way. There is much sorrow in the world, but as you pointed out, also much cause for hope and joy. May all beings know joy and be comforted in their sorrow. Thank you for this post, Michele. My warmest wishes to you this Christmas season.

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    1. Just yesterday, I was wishing for the warm presence of a friend who passed away quite a long time ago, and yet I still miss her voice and her wisdom in my life. Thank you for pointing out that it’s not only family, but also friends that we miss at this time of year.

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  7. This is a great article with some helpful advice. It’s so important to think about how we can support those who are grieving and finding this time of year particularly tough.

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  8. I’m glad you aren’t afraid to address some of the less Hallmark worthy events from this season of Jesus’ birth. The story of the killing of the children has haunted me ever since I read it many years ago. By acknowledging it, you recognize those who suffer great losses and the fact that they will not be joyful during this holiday season. Terrific, tangible suggestions on how to help those who grieve amongst us, Michele.

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    1. Thank you, Molly, and the truth is that even Jesus’s birth, the incarnation, is tinged with blood, and it is only through death, His and ultimately our own, that we will fully apprehend the fulfillment of the promises that are ours in Christ.
      This is such a rich and deep holiday to ponder.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You are so gifted, Michele. My heart is so blessed every time I stop by. On New Year’s Eve 7 years ago, my son was in Children’s Hospital for bilateral bacterial pneumonia. I remember being in the elevator with a woman that I didn’t know. She had a parent badge on like I did. And she was crying. I felt the nudge to pray for her, but I was too afraid. I thought of all of the excuses not to. Oh, how I wish I would have. I wish I could go back to those moments and ask if I could pray for her, even though I had no idea what her situation was. I wish I could hug her, from one Mama to another. I can’t, but what I can do is be more aware of those nudges now and make sure I act on them.

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    1. I sure do identify with those feelings of regret, Megan. So often I’ve taken the safe route as well, and then wished afterwards that I’d listened to the nudge. We’re learning. Let’s keep leaning into the helpful and healing path. (Even though it feels very risky!)

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  10. Michelle!! Yes. Yes to all of it. You learned so much from your grieving friend, and you put it into words. Everything about it is correct. Thank you for letting God use you. I lost my sister this time last year. My dad lost his brother and his best friend unexpectedly, and this. This is exactly what people who are grieving need. Thank you!

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    1. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for confirming by your own experience the intense need of those who grieve in a season when everyone is intent upon celebration. May God bring comfort to you and your Dad in the coming days.

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  11. Hi Michele,
    I am one of those mothers, I lost my daughter & son many years ago…the void they have left becomes a little more highlighted at certain times of the year.
    But there are parents grieving the loss of living adult children & grandchildren for varying reasons at this time of the year. My heart goes out to them too.
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

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  12. This can be such a difficult time of year for so many. Every year I am reminded of how much my step-daughter is missed. I am blessed to have the spirit to love Christmas season and not feel the overwhelming sadness that many of us feel but my heart and my prayers go out to those who are filled with grief.

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    1. Yes, me too, Kara I appreciate your reading this post and sharing your thoughts–and your celebration of Christmas comes through in your writing and in the images you share. It’s clear that you enter wholeheartedly into the spirit of Christmas.

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  13. Michele,
    Wise and sage advice. My friend just lost her son to a heroine overdose and there just aren’t many words for that. I certainly agree to do more listening than talking, but to say something. Praying before we speak lets the Holy Spirit minister through us to them. Definitely no cliche phrases and even scripture is not needed in this type of encounter. Let our actions speak scripture and truth to them. Great post on a very difficult subject.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Just yesterday, I was reading that those who lose their children to drug overdoses or to suicide have an even longer grieving process–AND they tend to receive more tentative support and encouragement from the church.’
      This is so sad and I’m trusting for a better path for the future!

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    1. I’m thankful to hear from a “talker” on this. I’m not a great conversationalist under even the best of circumstances, so I had to do this research just to reassure myself that there is a way through grief support that I can lean into.

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  14. I’ve often wondered if we couldn’t learn something from the Jewish tradition of sitting shivah with a grieving person. Thank you for the practical ideas about showing up–even if it’s just to say, “I don’t know what to say.”

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  15. First of all, how happy I am to see you writing for Desiring God! That’s awesome, Michele! And secondly, your words are spot on, as usual. Having been one of those mamas, the first Christmas after Kali died was horrible. 😦 I was so thankful for those who didn’t expect me to be happy and who remembered to say her name aloud.

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  16. Michele, thank you for such an excellent and honest article. Congrats on being published on Desiring God site. I want to feature this post on the next Blogger’s Pit Stop.
    Kathleen
    Blogger’s Pit Stop

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  17. Grief is a process that should not be rushed and we can only overcome and work through it with the grace of God. With so many deaths of family and friends in 2018; it has not been an easy year and I can only pray that those who lost children, siblings, parents and close friends will find peace this Christmas #TwinklyTuesday

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