Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health and Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.
In a recent Christmas message, I shared some suggestions for dealing with the emotions of Christmas loss. I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome that sense of Christmas loss.
Ideally, Christ is the answer (and in the message I make that clear). Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical things to help you deal with loss at Christmas.
Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:
List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances…children moved out this year…whatever they are…write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain…write them down.
Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.
Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve…even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.
Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.
Take care of your physical body– Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.
Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.
Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us that loss is universal and that other people are struggling with you.
Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.
Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.
Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.
I shared one more suggestion, one I believe is the most powerful of all, in the Christmas message. It’s this: We have to learn to worship in tears. Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.