The holidays are upon us. This is undoubtedly my favorite time of year, but it’s also my hardest time of year because it brings up feelings of grief and loss. There’s just something about missing loved ones at Christmas that feels extra lonely and painful, and yet there’s still so much hope during the holidays.
Remembering the Past
I long to be back at home in the kitchen with my mom, watching her cook for Thanksgiving. I miss when she’d make me do all of the cutting and peeling. I can still smell her incredible cooking and hear laughter from all over the house. I see kids running in and out with grown-ups telling them to slow down. It was loud and crazy and cramped and so, so beautiful. And it’s gone.
The house I grew up in was sold after my mom passed away. My family lived there for over 40 years. It was only a year old (and so was I) when my parents bought it. I helped with so many home projects that I feel like I grew up at the hardware store. My mom and dad actually built our den from a do-it-yourself book we had in our living room. I remember looking at those pages with them while they planned out every step, wondering how in the world they understood what to do.
They saved a little money each week, bought whatever supplies they could, and stacked them in the backyard. When they finally had everything they needed, they got to work. I remember helping them hold boards as they sawed, framed the house, and nailed sheetrock.
But no matter how much we added on, the house was always full. During the holidays, there would be people sleeping everywhere—in all the bedrooms, on the couches, and even on the floor. No one cared, because we were together. And together was the best place in the world.
I drove by the house a few months ago. I was visiting my niece who lives just a few blocks away, and 40-plus years of muscle memory will make you turn on the wrong street.
I found myself driving home, and when I realized what I was doing and saw my house, I felt the wind being knocked out of me. It was different. There was my house—the only family home I remember—with strange cars, different paint, my mama’s rose bushes gone, and trees cut down. The brick fence my brother, Dennis, and I helped build and spent hours playing on was gone. The yard where I hunted for Easter eggs as a child, and again later on with my own babies, was changed. A lifetime of memories, yet it didn’t even seem like the same place.
Worst of all, my mom wasn’t there walking out when she saw my car drive up. No one I knew was there. And my heart couldn’t take it. I drove on—angry and heartbroken and crying out to God like a little kid, “I want to go home! I want my family! I can’t take this!”
Missing Loved Ones but Not Missing Love
And God, in His kind, gentle way, once again wrapped His love around me while I cried. I felt Him whisper into my heart, “I know you do. I see you. I’m here. And one day, I will bring you home. I will give you your family back, and I will make everything right. This house was not really your home. This house was just brick and mortar. It was always the love that made it so special. Your family is still here, waiting for you to come home as they always have been. Keep going, sweet daughter. You have a story to tell. Your work is not done yet, and I will be with you every step of the way until it’s finished. And when it’s time to come home, they will all be waiting for you. What I have for you will never pass on to someone else. I promise.”
Missing loved ones at Christmas can be incredibly gut-wrenching. My family filled my life with love. I will carry on their legacy and fill my house with people and memories and laughter spilling out everywhere. And I’ll continue that in this holiday season and in every holiday in the future until I get to my real home.
I may be missing loved ones at Christmas, but I won’t be missing love. That reminder is my Christmas gift from God, and His gifts are eternal. Love is eternal, and it’s the greatest gift of all.
My dear friend, if you are hurting today and missing your loved ones, please hear these words: It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry and mourn the loss of what you once had. Jesus experienced this sort of pain, and the prophet Isaiah even prophesied that he would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. It doesn’t ruin Christmas or the holidays when we grieve. Embracing your pain does not negate your faith. If Jesus embraced His pain, doesn’t this mean we are actually more Christlike when we embrace ours?
Feel what you feel. Pay attention to your emotions, but hang onto hope, for it is hope that reminds us that resurrection is coming.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3 NIV
For more on grief, listen to this podcast.