Recently, I was reflecting if given that I now have children, I might associate Advent and Christmas any less with my mother’s death which was 16 years ago today. Certainly, the Christmas season will always be a sacred reminder of her death, like an old scar that always seems more visible this time of year. But seeing the gaze of my 22-month-olds toward the Christmas lights on our tree and hearing them try to recite Christmas songs has re-introduced some of that excitement about this season that I once thought I’d never experience again.
Yet, I also know so many who are experiencing grief and pain right now, and my heart breaks for them as I have been there—especially that “first Christmas” – which for many is the hardest. For anyone who is experiencing their first Christmas with an empty chair around their table or their first Christmas going through a painful time in their health, relationships, or personal life, know that I am holding space for you in my heart. May you also be reminded that it’s okay if this is not the “best time of the year” nor should you feel obligated to pretend it to be for others. There may come a time when you will find some holiday joy again, and it’s okay if it takes 16 years or more to find it, such as in my case. Be patient, surround yourself with those who understand, and remember this road to Bethlehem we are on is long and tiring, but certainly you aren’t alone on this journey.