Remembering Christmas on the outside

"On the outside, looking in. That is what grief feels like at Christmas."

Most of us are familiar with the Christmas story of the Little Match Girl.  In your imagination remember how she huddled out in the bitter cold, so alone and lonely.

She lit her matches one at a time and with the flame of each one she had a glimpse into the warm rooms of houses decorated with snowy white tablecloths,  lavish Christmas dinners spread out and ready, and shiny Christmas trees.  They were only visions and not to be hers.

On the outside, looking in.  That is what grief feels like at Christmas.  It is not the physical cold but instead the gray and chilling feelings of loss that wrap around you.  While you may not actually be outside of the celebrations of family and friends, it feels like you are not a true part of them either.  There is an emptiness, an aloneness, a despair that grief brings and it seems to be accentuated during holidays when others celebrate with joy, music, gift-giving and reminiscing.

Whether the loss of our loved one was recent or many years ago, it seems something reaches into and rubs on our hearts as we remember past holidays and celebrations that we shared.  Those memories elicit feelings, and sometimes tears.  They also recall traditions that can no-longer be relived or experienced on our own.

Perhaps it is time to start building new traditions, in honor of our own lives that continue on.  Consider some ways you might do that….

Using Christmas paper, wrap a small gift box with a lid that can be lifted off.  Every time you have a memory of things you shared with the person who is now gone, write it on a slip of paper and put it in the box.  It might be a holiday memory, a special gift, an activity you did together, something they left for you.  As you need to, open that box and sift through those memories.

Attend the Blue Christmas service at Trail United Church on Friday, Dec. 21rst at 7 p.m.  This is a non-denominational service of quiet reflection, music and remembrance.  Bring a friend to support you and to share with you.

Place two candles on your table.  Light both of them to symbolize the sharing you had together.

Think of something that your loved one felt strongly about, supported, or promoted.  Give a small yearly memorial donation to an organization that embodies what was important to them.

At the end of the story about the Little Match Girl, she finally joins her deceased grandmother and was embraced once again by her love.  Real love, true relationship extends far beyond earthly limits.  Believe in a time when you can once again be joined with those who have meant so much to you.