The grief process is always very difficult and especially so during the holidays. Even the smallest memories will bring about a flood of painful thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or how to deal with these thoughts or the empty place on Christmas Day. Here are a few helpful suggestions:
Wrap a favorite keepsake or framed picture of your loved one, and give it as a gift to another grieving family member.
Create a special ornament with the name of your loved one and hang it on your Christmas tree.
Decorate a candle and light it at meal time in memory of your loved one.
Make a donation to a favorite charity in the person’s honor. Create a scholarship to keep the memory of the loved one alive and announce it at a holiday gathering of family and friends.
Purchase a Christmas book, perhaps a favorite of your loved one, and donate it to your local library or school. Ask the librarian to place a label in the front cover in memory of your loved one.
Bring your loved one’s favorite food to share at Christmas dinner. Mention their name in the blessing over the food.
Encourage grieving children to draw pictures and create gifts inspired by their memories of the one who died, to give to other family members.
Decorate and hang a cut-out star in your home, write on the star your hopes and dreams for the future. Thinking about tomorrow is part of the healing.
Once you have remembered your loved one, make sure you remember yourself. Take care of your needs. Be gentle. Do what you can and no more and no less.
I was glad to read recently that drinking coffee can help your short-term memory loss. You see, I’m a forgetful, coffee-drinking preacher.
Having a bad memory is not good when you are a minister. When I was pastor of Union Baptist Church in Roxie, Mississippi, our treasurer had a car wreck. I went to see her, and before leaving, I offered to pray for her. As I began the prayer, I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten her name! The church only had about 35 people attend each Sunday, so it wasn’t like I had a lot of names to recall. Anyway, being the sophisticated young professional that I was, I blurted out, “What’s your name?” She told me with a sad voice it was “Jean,” and then I prayed aloud for God to heal Jean, and silently I prayed for God to get me out of there alive.
My pastor friend in New Orleans, Joe McKeever, tells how he was asked to visit a member’s sister in the hospital and pray for her. Forgetting her name, his prayer sounded strange: “Please bless this dear brother’s sister, Father.”
That reminds me of a forgetful moment I had when I lived in New Orleans. I was driving home from church. To my surprise, a New Orleans cop turned on his blue lights and pulled me over. As soon as I stopped, he got on his loudspeaker and announced loudly enough for the whole city to hear, “There’s a book on your car.” I got out, and saw that my black leather
Bible was sitting on the roof of the car, just above the driver’s seat. Apparently I left it there after church when I was talking to somebody. The Bible was open and its pages were in disarray, and the Sunday bulletin was gone, but at least my Bible didn’t fall off the car. It would be hard to explain to my Bible professor why I trampled the Word of God with my tires.
Red-faced, I retrieved the Bible, and the policeman smiled and drove away.
All of this reminds me (you see, the coffee-drinking is helping my memory already!) of how many people get forgetful at Christmas. Folks put up their holiday decorations and do their holiday shopping and send holiday cards with “Season’s Greetings,” and attend holiday parties and holiday parades. But they forget what the holiday is about.
This Christmas, don’t forget to Whom we pray. His name is Jesus. This Christmas, don’t forget the Book. It’s called the Bible, and it has good news for you, that a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in Bethlehem. May I make a suggestion? This Christmas, before you open any presents, curl up with a hot cup of coffee, open the Good Book to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, and read the story to your family. You may find yourself saying, “Ah, I remember.”