Last Christmas was our family’s first without Grant. I could barely breathe through the holiday season last year. I never went to the mall, or did any Christmas shopping. The stockings weren’t hung, as none of us could bare to hang 3 instead of 4. No cookies were baked, nor Christmas music played. We never ventured out to look at holiday lights. And if it weren’t for my kids, there wouldn’t have even been a Christmas tree.
Last year was strictly about survival mode for all of us. So I wasn’t sure what to expect this year. I had had another year learning to adapt at living with a hole in my heart. Would it be easier this year, harder, the same? What would Christmas #2 look like on this grief journey?
Kay Warren says this about grief, and she is well acquainted with it. They buried their adult son only 1 month before we lost Grant. “I’m slowly learning that grief is both universal and yet as individual as each person who mourns. Psychologists note that most grief journeys include shock, denial, anger, resignation, and acceptance. But it’s not linear, as though it was a clearly marked path for everyone. The feelings come and go. Some days you think you’re doing well until something triggers a wave of emotions that make you wonder if you’ll ever feel like yourself again. There are better days, even good days. And then, after a couple good days, a tidal wave of sadness can knock you to the ground.”
And that is so true. I often say ‘grief has a life of it’s own.’ You can wake up determined to choose joy, only to find yourself in a puddle of tears by lunch. So again, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Christmas #2. But I will say this. There were hard days…so hard it took every ounce of strength and faith I possess to get out of bed. But there were also good days as well. I went Christmas shopping this year, only once, but I was able to go. I helped put up the tree, wrapped a few presents, and even put out the Nativity scene. However, the stockings remained tucked away…maybe next year.
And I spent a lot of time sitting by the tree and thinking back. Remembering times spent with Grant. Remembering friends and family who keep walking with us on our grief journey. Loved ones who enter fully into our pain, not afraid to walk along side us in our torrent of tears. Loved ones who don’t push or try to rush this process, but love us right where we are in each moment, day by day. Loved ones that laugh with us in our moments of merriment, and those that inspire us to keep seeking beauty from these ashes…but not with words, with their lives, with their love for us, for Grant. And remembering loved ones who haven’t forgotten, will never forget, and remind us often of what they remember.
And as I sit by the tree remembering all of these things, I am reminded of the reason there is a tree. It is because of Christ that it is even possible to be in deep grief and able to experience the joy of the Lord in this season. In fact, it is because of Christmas, the Son of God choosing to come to Earth, that enables me to keep choosing to engage in life, to continue loving others deeply, and to continue seeking joy, even as I live with a broken heart.
So Christmas #2 brought with it, memories, and a fresh awareness of several truths. We are deeply loved, extremely grateful, and because of what Christ has done, able to have moments of joy. Love to you all, Merry Christmas.