Christmas Perceptions

Christmastime can Hurt
Christmas time is extremely difficult for many of us who grieve. Most of us usually have celebrated these holy days with family or annual traditions. For some, our departed loved one may have been a great part of our Christmas celebration and now this void is excruciating to us. And for others, our departed loved one may not have been a great part of our Christmas celebration or there may have been conflict-but we had hopes that maybe one day we would reconcile. Dreams . . . hopes . . . fantasies . . . shatter like glass ornament crashing to the floor and splintering into numerous shards of cutting splinters and pieces. Sometimes, I feel as if some of these shards have pierced my heart and become so embedded that I cannot remove the pain. Yet this pain can be comforted and the pain can be softened.

Christmas Guilt
I noticed that many others like myself experienced similar holiday pain and void. Over the years I have heard and felt the pain of many fellow survivors. Some were new, whose hearts were so fragile and wounds so raw that they had to put forth great effort to simply get out of bed everyday. Understandably, the Christmas season was dreaded by many survivors. These survivors were emotionally incapacitated and were not able to bring joy or peace into their home or partake of it. Because they loved so deeply the rest of their family they felt “guilty” for not contributing gaiety to the holiday festivities for surrounding family members. These realizations weighed heavily on my heart and I prayed about what I could do to help ease some of the pain so prevalent about me. What could I do? My desire to comfort these dear grieving friends during the holy Christmas season was overwhelming to me.

Christmas Is?
How many of us feel that our Christmas season is now a dreaded season? How many of us feel like Christmas just isn’t “special” anymore? In spite of our loss Christmas can be still a very special time of year. It is not about our departed loved ones . . . it is about celebrating, reflecting and giving thanks for the birth of Christ and His unconditional love for us—especially the love He has for our precious departed loved ones. Every one of us, whether we believe in Him or not, are unconditionally loved and forgiven of our sinful nature. Without Christ’s love and supreme understanding, what would be the fate of our loved ones? What would be the fate of each one of us? Some time after Kimberly’s suicide, I found myself sorting through an intricate weave and knotted threads of emotions, logic, pain, desire, frustration, anger, confusion, disappointment, fear, and hope. My desire to “resolve” was enormous! What could I do to help ease such holiday pains for so many passionate and hurting people? I was inspired to minister to the hearts of suicide survivors. Not just to listen to them, but to provide comfort during their time of pain, and to give hope for easier tomorrows.

Continue or Replace Traditions?
What comforting measures are available for those of us, who once loved celebrating the birth of Christ, and who now grieve and struggle to pull pieces of our lives together? How do we celebrate this joyous holiday when such a painful hurt is intensified because our loved one is no longer here to partake of this holiday with us? What are our options to go forward? What do we do about our traditions? How do we handle family gatherings and the holiday cheer, which is so prevalent this time of year?
Something to consider, would be to gently place that endearing old tradition in a special chamber within our heart until a later date. We may elect to revisit that old tradition or we may not. We do have control over some of what happens in our life, especially when it comes to our attitude—the way we perceive life. It has been effective for some of us to consider starting a new tradition that would represent a new chapter in our lives. Even for us to refocus some of the holiday cheer and blessings God has blessed unto us unto other people has proven comforting and enriching. When we minister to the needs of others, we are the ones to be blessed. Ironically, we are the ones who end up feeling as if we have been ministered to.

Memory Tree of Lights, Launching
In Christmas of 1998 Colorado’s first “Memory Tree of Lights” was launched where people from support groups located across the country participated. This outreach comforted many hurting people and I knew from that point on that my family, and many other families, had started a new tradition. We have now taken this to a national level where State Tree Coordinators are reaching out to survivors in every state with comfort, unity, hope and resource material.
Please stroll through our “Memory Tree of Lights” pages. I hope you will find comfort and peace for the holidays. Visit us from time to time throughout the year as we add information or change our look.
May God comfort you in your days of grieving, may His healing reach you through the hearts of others, may knowing that His magnificent love embraces your departed loved ones gently blanket your shattered heart with a sense of eternal peace.
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