12 Days of Christmas Memories: Grief

grief plant

Have you dealt with a season of grief at Christmas?

In my first post of this series, I wrote about my grandparents’ house being a constant in my childhood Christmases.  The tradition of Christmas Eve at their home stopped in 2011 when Grandpa had a debilitating stroke.

Grandpa loved talking with people.  He would have a half-hour conversation with a telemarketer.  The stroke took away his ability to speak.  Tears ran down his face when we visited him, and I’m sure it’s because he wanted to speak but couldn’t.  I grieved the loss of his friendly chatter.

Grandpa loved children.  He loved them so much he served as a mall Santa for many years.  Every time I saw someone dressed up as Santa that year, I had to turn my head to avoid bursting into tears.  The stroke took away his ability to express love for children.

Grandpa loved Christmas.  He loved the Christmas story, emphasizing faith in his long, drawn-out prayer before our family meal on Christmas Eve.  He loved baking cookies, wrapping gifts, and watching his loved ones open their Santa Bags.  He loved the excitement of the Christmas season.  That first Christmas without him seemed so empty.

I remember talking with my youngest sister about it the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  I cried as I said it was as if we had lost the hub of the wheel, the part that held all of us together.  We weren’t even gathering as a family that year.  Grandma wasn’t up to hosting Christmas; I understood.  But I had to grieve the loss of our long-standing tradition.

In my grief I decided to fill the void with church.  We attended church on Christmas Eve, the special service tailored for children.  The service was light, joyful, and fun.  My two boys were chosen to be shepherds in the nativity scene.   My little daughter delighted in the scene.  The happiness of the service, the joy of the message, and the warm fellowship permeated through my grief.

That year I gained hope that a new tradition could successfully replace an old tradition.  Grief made way for new life.  I knew deep down that Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house couldn’t continue forever.  I knew we’d have to make a change someday.  We lost the family gathering but gained time to worship, an activity that hadn’t previously fit into our schedule.

I will always remember Grandpa at Christmas.  I’m thankful for the decades of wonderful memories I have at his house on Christmas Eve.  I will remember his childlike joy and his efforts to bring family together.  I will remember his love and generosity.  I will remember his faith.


How did your Christmas traditions change when loved ones passed away?

What new life has grief made possible for you?

P.S. Today is Day 10 of 12 Days of Reader Tips for Christmas Peace.  Be sure to leave a comment on my related Facebook post with your tip!

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