Coping with Loss This Christmas

Most of the Christmases of my life have been beautiful — steeped in tradition and filled with all the joys that make for a perfect holiday season.

Coping With Loss This Christmas

But there have been those exceptions, like the first Christmas after we lost my mom.  My dad and brother and I were coping relatively well I thought, trying to move on with our lives and adjust to a new kind of normal, and yet Christmas had a way of shoving our loss back in our faces in the most glaring and unavoidable manner.

Fast forward several years to one of my first Christmases as a married woman.  We had just learned we were expecting our first child, and while I should have been jubilant at the news, it came in the midst of such a swirl of troubles that it honestly did more to overwhelm than to delight me.  As if our other problems weren’t enough, my husband was laid off his job on Christmas Eve.  I then lost our baby to miscarriage, and we found ourselves deep in debt over the subsequent hospital bill.

I still cringe at the memory of that Christmas.

But some of you have been there.  In fact, some of you are there right now, wondering how on earth you will make it through a holiday that is supposed to be filled with joy, hope, and peace when those things seem crushed along with any strength of spirit you might have had left.

I can’t fix it, and I’m sorry.  I wish I could somehow send a Christmas miracle your way and fill that gaping hole in your heart to restore the joy you so desperately want to experience.

I can’t do that, but I can offer a few words of encouragement:

Embrace the loss this Christmas.

I’m not telling you to celebrate your loss, but it is certain denying loss will only drive its pain deeper.  Loss can take a thousand forms — loss of life, of love, of trust, of health, of innocence, of purpose, of jobs, of finances, of dreams. Whatever form your loss has taken, face it head-on and allow yourself to feel it fully.  As devastating a process as that can be, remember no one has ever found healing in hiding from the pain.  Recognizing and acknowledging the worst loss and the deepest aches can begin the process of healing.

Realize it’s okay to cry.

I know we want so much to be strong for our kids, especially at Christmas when seeing our children happy means more to us than anything in the world.

But our kids won’t be damaged by the sight of us in tears.  While, granted, constant and prolonged emotional upheavals in a parent could be distressing to a child, kids also need to know that even moms are sometimes weak and broken people.  We want them to understand that a person can work through loss, but it is a process, and sometimes it’s a very long and painful one.

Remember that loss won’t hamper our children’s learning.

Can I be honest in telling you last year was undoubtedly the most difficult school year we have ever endured as a family?  The details of the situation aren’t important, but I can assure you we experienced almost every painful emotion you can imagine.

Sometimes along the way I worried that learning was being lost in the commotion, but now I look back and realize my kids were learning vastly more through that experience than they will ever learn from our schoolbooks.  In the midst of our loss they were learning life lessons I could not have taught them any other way, and I saw them cope and mature in ways that amazed me.  The book learning continued through it all, but the life learning was the most impressive thing.

Keep in mind that Christmas will be better next year.

A song you’ve probably already heard this season tells us to have ourselves a merry little Christmas because, “Next year all our troubles will be miles away.”

I’m not sure if that’s really true or not.  Your situation may not be completely resolved by next Christmas, and your heart may not be completely healed, and all may not be well again.

But time has a way of changing things.  While time does not heal all wounds, it does tend to soothe them some.  Even if all things are not made right by next December, your circumstances will likely be different at least, and hopefully headed in a better direction.  If nothing else, your perspective concerning your circumstances is likely to have changed dramatically.

Remembering that can be a source of great hope, and often hope is the very thing we need most when we’re coping with loss.


Have you ever struggled with loss at Christmas?  What tips can you give others who may be dealing with their own loss this holiday season?

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  1. I lost a child in December. The season is such a weird mix of missing him and joy for my other children. It’s interesting just how many people really struggle with Christmas, because you don’t have to lose someone that month for it to become hard. Christmas is when families get together and that’s when it becomes most obvious and most painful that some are not present. It’s totally OK to have to take a moment and step away from the celebration to grieve those losses.

    1. I’m sorry, Dana! I do pray that you are able to celebrate Christmas with your other children and that you can remember the happy times with the child you lost. Thank you for your comment.

  2. I’m sorry for the loss of your child. Christmas seems bittersweet. I know your pain because I share it. I lost my oldest daughter June 2014. She was 26 years old. Christmas just isn’t the same. I try to make it joyfull for my other children (2 grown 3 young). Thank you for your words of encouragement.

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