Dear Karen, This is going to be my first christmas without my dad, and I am having trouble getting into the christmas spirit. He has only been gone 8 months. Please help. Vickie
Thank you so much for contacting me. I can only imagine how hard it is to think about this first Christmas without your father.
I wish I had some words to make it seem less overwhelming, but I don’t. Part of the reason Christmas can be such a difficult time for grief is that the loss of a love one leaves a hole in your heart. Everyday life leaves tons of reminders of the ache inside that has come from the loss but the holidays bring traditions. And with traditions come the expectation for consistency and normalcy that the absence of your love one denies. Things are not normal. They can be blaringly different. Christmas often brings a renewed sense that your dad’s “suppose” to be there.
Coping with grief is very individual. Some days you want to be alone and others you want to be with a friend or family. Maybe there are times you feel like talking about your dad yet other times you’d rather no one mentioned your loss. Another thing about the holidays is that family members come together and everyone is grieving in there own ways. One family member may want to do something different this year so the absence of your dad is not as obvious. Other family members want to keep traditions the same because the consistency gives them comfort. It’s hard to talk about the fears of the holidays but it’s not a bad idea. Ask the other family members what they’re dreading about this Christmas and each of you think about what would help you get through the holidays. Be together? Be alone. Talk about dad or not? Do something new or be consistent?
You might think about the expectations both friends and family members may have for you. The holidays always bring expectations of parties, gift giving, decorating, etc. You get to choose. Any of these things that do not add joy and peace to your Christmas season, you get to pass on. Tell folks you’ll be at an event if you feel up to it. Buy the presents you feel motivated to buy. Decorate the things that add pleasure to your days. It’s OK to tell others, “Not this year.”
Lastly, and I really do believe this, in the midst of all the fears and sadness and confusion of this first Christmas without your dad, you might find Christ in a new and meaningful way. Never has there been a Christmas that you needed Him more and this Christmas He wants to be closer to you than ever before. God sent His Son to earth the first Christmas because He knew how much you were going to need the Christ Child this Christmas. Try and think of the true meaning of Christmas: the gift of a Son so that in your hardest days you can rest in the strength of His loving arms. Try and seek the wellspring of love that awaits you this Christmas at the manger of our Savior.
I pray that in the midst of the pain of your loss Christ reveals Himself to you in the most glorious ways. When you need Jesus most, He wants to be with you more.
Karen Tripp MS Speaker, Author, Counselor
To learn more about Karen’s First Christmas After grief CD go to http://store.godisbiggerthan.com/music. It is a beautiful collection of 9 carols sung by AriSon and 9 devotions written by Karen, designed to provide the comfort and reassurance many grieving people need their first Christmas without their loved one.