Christmas & Grief
I may have bitten off more than I can chew choosing to write about the five stages of grief at Christmas time. For my whole family, especially Shaun the last couple years of his life, loved Christmas dearly. It was a very special time for our entire family. Therefore, it’s now a hard time for all of us but especially for my sweet wife.
But why would celebrating the birth of the savior of the world be hard on anyone at anytime? Especially, since we know that Shaun is now with Jesus and walking streets of gold. The answer, of course, is that we miss him and, I guess, selfishly, would prefer that he be with us. Logically that makes no sense but God made us relational as well as logical and most of the time, at least with me, relational trumps logical for none of us, if we really think about it, really want to be a Mr. Spock.
Perhaps that’s part of the “acceptance” stage of grief, accepting the unacceptable. But acceptance is more than just getting on with life. It’s knowing and submitting to Who is in charge of All Things and being OK with that.
Right now as I am writing, I’m looking out the windows of our sun room and seeing a couple inches of undisturbed snow and the evergreen trees with their pine branches covered with the white powder. It’s beauty unmistakable, it’s Granduer overwhelming. Whiteness everywhere covering the landscape like a cloud. God’s love for us cries out to us in the snow that His only Son’s death covers our sins and rebellion with a whiteness that’s pure and life-changing. Surely if the Sovereign God of the Universe could accept the death of His Own Son, then surely He’ll walk with me through the death of mine. Acceptance is knowing and feeling that assurance.
Acceptance is also coming to terms with the understanding that we will not see Shaun again on planet earth. It means experiencing life in a new, forever changed way. Grief’s blanket no longer covers every area of life the way it once did. And that blanket felt like the protective covering/shield that the dentist puts over you when taking x-rays. But still there remains the twinge of sadness and incompleteness that comes with separation from someone you love and especially during those times in life that Shaun seemed to enjoy the most. Now, however, that sadness is coupled more strongly with the knowledge, understanding and acceptance of spending eternity together.
As Tiana has helped us see, we are now more spiritually connected to Shaun than we were perhaps even when he was physically with us. Every time I do anything connected to drug/alcohol recovery I sense Shaun’s presence with me. One of my life long prayers has been to do ministry together as a family. I guess that prayer has been answered with Shaun.
But now having gone through the acceptance stage, I can sit back and remember the good times with Shaun without being overwhelmed by them. I’ve accepted, finally, that he really is gone and all I have are some of his things and the memories of the good times we had together. His things help me feel connected to him in some strange, physical way. His car is still parked in my garage and his hats stacked neatly in our closet. We started a garden which we call Shaun’s Garden with his name on the gate and when I’m working in it I’m doing it with Shaun. Of course there are pictures of him every where because we don’t want family and friends to unintentionally forget him. The photographs are a reminder he’s somehow still with us. I continue to wear his yellow coat and think of him every time I put it on. I, of course, still miss him and will always miss him, but now I cling to him through the things that were his and the memories of the good times we had together.
Perhaps all these things are what they mean by acceptance.
The following is a poem I wrote years ago about Christmas and what it came to mean to me. It’s one of those memories that warms my heart this time of the year.
The Meaning of Christmas
The meaning of Christmas has changed over the years
from Santa Claus, presents & counterfeit expressions of cheer.
For life is a journey not easily traveled
& requires special people to not let us unravel,
to keep our focus on life’s purpose and goal,
helping us walk by faith and praying for our souls.
Life’s greatest gifts aren’t bought at the store
but the people God brought to help us see more.
Like Roberta so caring, loving and strong
always giving herself to help all feel they belong.
And Shaun with his risk taking but sensitive ways
yet who’s gentle & helpful & quick to obey.
And Meg so pretty, outgoing and caring
so much like her Mother but a tad more daring.
And Kris’ inherited the best of us both,
competitive, relational, always time for a joke.
Our children so similar yet charmingly unique
and through them God gives us a heavenly peak.
God’s gifts from heaven come in many shapes and sizes
but my kids are the greatest even with all their surprises.
The meaning of Christmas has changed over the years,
now just being together is the gift I hold dear.
Christmas reminds us that God’s greatest gift to the world
wasn’t presents but Jesus and all His little boys and girls.
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